Pea Shoots with Burrata, Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seeds from The Cheesemonger’s Seasons

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A Jewel in the Suburbs

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Written by Peggy Fallon   
Monday, 19 March 2012

ImageFine dining atop an upscale market? You betcha. I dare say everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area is familiar with Draeger's, a mini-chain of 4 dazzling supermarkets renowned for their extensive selection of fine foods, specializing in hard-to-find treasures from local boutique producers as well as impressive imports from around the world. Their extensive wine department is staffed by knowledgeable experts; their collection of exquisite gifts and cookware can't be beat; and a stellar cooking school (where I happen to teach occasionally) attracts celebrity chefs from around the country.

It's no wonder Draeger's has become a must-see tourist destination for visiting foodies. Their landmark store in San Mateo, California has one big extra: arguably the best restaurant on the Peninsula. Really. Enter the doors of Viognier and you leave behind all the hubbub of the serious shopping going on downstairs. The restaurant is as serene as it is elegant.
I recently attended the "Half Moon Bay Crab Celebration" at Draeger's Cooking School in San Mateo, where we feasted on the bounty of our local coastline. The class began with an incredibly informative primer on Dungeness crab from our local Harbor Master, Captain Pietro Parravano. He was followed by Executive Chef Preston Dishman, fresh from overseeing dinner service at Viognier, to teach some of his favorite ways to prepare crab. I guess it's all in a night's work.

Chef Dishman carries an enviable resumé, even before he landed at Viognier. His wealth of culinary knowledge, some of which was simply dropped as "asides" during his presentation, left me scribbling notes madly. In short, he is best known for blending classic French techniques with California's bounty of fresh food. He believes it is part of the ethical duty of a chef to support local farmers and uses seasonal, local, organic and sustainable products whenever possible. In a time when it has become almost a cliché for chefs to claim they use only the finest ingredients, Dishman truly walks the walk. (Or woks the wok, as the case might be.)

As the filled-to-capacity class sipped wine, the aptly-named Dishman cranked out some of the best crab dishes I've tasted in a long time. Quite possibly ever. In less than 2 hours he effortlessly prepared his riff on Crab Louis, made with avocado cream, julienne slices of apple, and thinly sliced fennel and radishes; a Creamy Dungeness Crab Soup with sherry and celery root; and by far the most utterly delicate Dungeness Crab Cakes, served with Spicy Harissa Aioli. Just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, Dishman rounded off the evening with his homemade Blood Orange Sorbet. Perfection.

To keep it all in the family, Dishman's wife, Nicole, heads up the beverage program at the restaurant. With over 1,700 bottles on the wine list, Wine Spectator has recognized it with a Best of Award of Excellence every year since 2002.  
If you're visiting the San Francisco bay area, make time for dinner at Viognier. It's the best of Big City Dining, right here in the 'burbs.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.


Last Updated ( Monday, 19 March 2012 )

Green with Nostalgia

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Written by Peggy Doherty Fallon   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
List of viewable recipes from "The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook" by The Lodge Company

ImageMy parents were already adults when they emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland, so their culinary preferences pretty much always reflected “the old country.” We’ve all heard the jokes about bland Irish cooking, with its overcooked meats and vegetables. When I was growing up, unfortunately most of those tales were true.

Let’s just say meals at our house weren’t terribly innovative. But my mother managed to feed 3 squares a day to a family of 8—which is certainly an accomplishment none of her children can match.

Her real claim to fame, however, was her Irish soda bread. This “scon,” as she called it, was something she learned to make as a girl in Donegal. In her own American kitchen, she tweaked and fussed with her mother’s recipe—adding a bit more sugar in deference to my father’s sweet tooth, and an egg to lighten the texture. You know how cooks are.

As a testament to this, several of my relatives have slightly different versions of essentially the same recipe—each written in my mother’s distinctive hand. But fine-tuning aside, scon was always the best part of our breakfast table, served with steaming cups of hot tea made kid-friendly with milk and sugar.

This soda bread bears no resemblance to those dry and crumbly loaves being sold at supermarkets this week. And I see no point in debating the pros and cons of using currants over raisins; or the merits of adding caraway seeds. This is what I grew up with, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Even now, 83 years after she first landed at Ellis Island, my mother’s scon remains part of every Doherty family gathering. And we’ve picked up plenty of converts along the way.

So when the folks at Lodge asked if I had a favorite recipe to contribute to their new cast iron cookbook, my mother’s soda bread immediately came to mind. You see, for as long as I can remember she baked it in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. I never asked why—it’s possible she simply didn’t own a 9-inch cake pan back in those early years. Many of us have since tried baking it every possible way, but nothing compares to the crisp crust and happy memories associated with soda bread baked in a cast iron skillet.

Maggie Doherty's Irish Soda Bread

Recipe from The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook by The Lodge Company (Oxmoor House, 2012)

Maggie Doherty was cookbook author Peggy Fallon's mother, who swore by cast iron when it came to her soda bread. 

Makes one (9-inch) round loaf

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups raisins (preferably 1 cup
  • each golden and dark raisins)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Generously grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet with vegetable shortening.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; whisk gently to blend. Stir in the raisins to coat with the flour mixture. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk and egg; stir until a stiff dough forms. (Use a wooden spoon if you must, but the most efficient way to mix this soft, sticky dough is with floured hands. Alternatively, the dough can be mixed in a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.)

3. Remove the dough from the bowl and mound it into the prepared skillet, roughly forming a round loaf. (Don't be concerned that it won't hold its shape; it will be corrected during baking.) Lightly moisten your hands with water to smooth the top. Using a serrated knife dipped in flour, score the top with a large X, about 1/2-inch deep. (This will ensure even baking, and it will also scare away the devil, according to Peggy's mother.) Bake until the loaf is golden brown with a firm crust and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with a knife, about 1 hour.

4. Remove the bread from the skillet and let cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before cutting into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted, with or without butter.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 March 2012 )

Healthy but Tasty

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Written by Team Project Foodie   
Tuesday, 03 January 2012

Are you ringing in the New Year with a healthy lifestyle resolution?  While many will say healthy equates to not-tasty I disagree.  To me healthy means moderation and thinking about the food we eat.  With that in mind, this month's What's Tasty focuses on foods that can aid in the healthy lifestyle including some great snacks and ways to spice up that bland diet food…

Rhythm Kale and Sweet Potato Chips

ImageYou can't get much healthier than kale, which is a natural superfood, or sweet potatoes, which are high fiber and contain Vitamins A and C.  But can you envision yourself craving either?  Probably not, yet if you're anything like me you'll find them delicious when transformed into a crunchy, yet raw, chip.  Unlike any potato chip I've ever had these dehydrated vegetables mixed with vegan sauces offer a punch of nutrition in a flavor packed snack.  Made by Rhythm Superfoods the kale chips come in Bombay Curry, Kool Ranch and Zesty Nacho; and the sweet potatoes come in Sea Salt and Hickory BBQ.  Available nationwide. — Foodie Pam

Snikiddy Eat Your Vegetables

ImageLooking for a chip that is closer to a potato chip?  Meet Snikiddy Eat Your Vegetables. These chips are made with a combination of sweet potatoes, carrots and navy beans that have the crispy crunch and mouth feel of potato chips with the added benefit of nutritious vegetables.  If I didn't know these chips were made from these vegetables I would never have guessed.  Be warned though. These chips, particularly the sour cream & onion and the sea salt varieties, are really good; you won't be able to eat just one but at least they are better for you than traditional potato chips!  Available nationwide.  — Foodie Pam

Jenkins Jellies Hell Fire Pepper Jelly

ImageOh how I love a sweet heat!  And what a heat this Hell Fire Pepper Jelly is. A blend of seven different types of hot and sweet peppers this jelly packs a punch that is balanced by its sweetness.  I find it the perfect complement to a turkey sandwich which makes it a great substitute for both high fat mayonnaise and cheese that are normally loaded on my sandwiches. And since hubby loves it too we find we can't keep enough of it in the house.  Available on-line and at select retailers. Foodie Pam

Chef Belinda's Spices

ImageEver wonder how some people are able to turn a simple fish dish into something extraordinary and loaded with great flavor? More than likely the answer lies in a premium spice mixture.  Personally, I love using fresh herbs and spices, but during this time of year when my vegetable beds are dormant a great dried spice mix can certainly be the way to go.  One of my favorites is by Chef Belinda, a Chicagoan turned South Carolina southern belle and professional chef.  For years she's been praised for her flavorful spice mixtures which motivated her into trying her hand at selling them. The Chef Belinda Spice blends includes everything from a classic Grilling Rub, Mediterranean Steak Spice, and my personal favorite The Everyday Spice which I use on popcorn, scrambled eggs, chicken, fish, and you name it. — Heather Jones


Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.


Last Updated ( Monday, 02 January 2012 )

Tasty Bubbly to Ring in the New Year: The Best Champagne of 2011

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Written by Team Project Foodie   
Wednesday, 28 December 2011

ImageEven those who aren't drawn to Champagne the rest of the year often celebrate with it on New Year's Eve.  But choosing a Champagne or sparkling wine can be a daunting task, given the vast number of choices available in all budget ranges.   While it was a tough job, we made the sacrifice and set out to find you some great choices for celebrating New Year's Eve (and enjoying throughout the year). Read on to see our picks; and if you're unsure of the right way to open a bottle of Champagne, check out this great how-to video from Real Simple magazine. 

First up is a budget-friendly sleeper that comes from New Mexico. Nope, we're not kidding. Gruet's fine wines are made by a genuine French family using classic Methode Champenoise. In New Mexico. Though available in many stores throughout the U.S., go to Gruet Winery to read the history of the winery and peruse all the choices available. The Gruet Rosé sparkling wine is a personal favorite…and at under $15 per bottle, you don't need to wait for a special occasion to justify serving it. — picked by Peggy Fallon

Another inexpensive option comes from California winemaker Jennifer Wall at Barefoot Bubbly, where she is known for her fruit-forward wines. At $10, the Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee can't be beat as an affordable choice; and its sweeter profile appeals to many who normally eschew the bubbly.  

If you're looking for something a step-up without completely busting the bank, then consider the Pol Roger Brut Reserve 'White Foil' Non-Vintage and the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label.  The Pol Roger Brut Reserve Non-Vintage ($39 at KL Wines)  is an equal blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meurnier and Chardonnay that Wine Spectator (91 points) says results in "Rich notes of pear pastry, toasted almond, smoke and honey are well-meshed with and balanced by fresh notes of lemon peel, quince and grated ginger, all knit with the finely tuned acidity and creamy mousse". No matter how you describe it, we found it highly enjoyable and perfect for a celebration--which may be why the Royal Household selected it for serving at Prince William's wedding reception.

While that recommendation is hard to beat, the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label ($45 at KL Wines) is also a Project Foodie favorite.  Wine Spectator (90 points) says it has "Hints of toast and biscuit accent lightly honeyed flavors of quince, apple blossom and peach in this fresh and balanced Champagne. There's a stony underpinning, with a smoke-tinged finish".  We enjoy it all year long!  — picked by Pam

Happy New Year Foodies!
Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 December 2011 )

Foodie Gift Guide

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Written by Team Project Foodie   
Thursday, 24 November 2011

ImageWant help finding the perfect gift for the foodie in your life?  We've picked out some great choices for foodies who love wine, cheese, entertaining, baking and more including stocking stuffers, gifts under $25, mid-price gifts and even over the top gifts

The Stocking Stuffers

ImageEven if you can't fly to New York anytime soon, you can still get a taste of Chef David Chang's wildly popular Momofuku restaurants with these handy Momofuku jarred sauces. They come in two varieties: Momofuku Asian Braising Sauce and Momofuku Clay Pot Cooking Sauce. The former is a savory-sweet blend of soy, mirin, pear, dark brown sugar, rice vinegar, apple juice and sesame oil that comes with a recipe for "Asian Braised Short Ribs" on the back of the jar. The latter is a sweet-tangy combination of soy, mirin, lemongrass, fish sauce, shallots, ginger, cinnamon and star anise that comes with a recipe for "Clay Pot Pork." The sauces are $16.95 each. Or purchase the two as a set for $24. Find them exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. — picked by Carolyn Jung


ImageWhen a whisk is too much and a wooden spoon is just not enough, bakers reach for the dough whisk-an exclusive from King Arthur Flour. Looking a bit like an old rug beater, this kitchen essential has a flow-through blade that makes quick work of everything from muffin batter to the stiffest yeast dough. $14.95 for the mini, and $16.95 for the heavy-duty model from King Arthur Flour. — picked by Peggy Fallon


ImageFoodies who love playing games will quickly become addicted to Foodie Fight Rematch.  The trivia game combines free-form, multiple choice and true-false questions in several different categories.  The questions range from simple to hard (the true-false ones get me every time!). With its small carrying box, Foodie Fight Rematch can easily travel to wherever your foodie friends gather, but you need not have a large crowd - it's equally fun with as few as two players.  $15.61 at — picked by Pam


ImageClassic mojitos require a muddler for the mint, and several other cocktails benefit from muddling too. Mashing cherries with basil makes a nice twist on the classic, or fresh cranberries can be muddled for fall cocktails. These wood muddles come in three styles. $17 each at C.S. Post & Co. — picked by Lisa Lawless  


ImageNeed just a little bit more for the stocking?  Measuring spoons (fancy or plain each have their place) and measuring cups (particularly the ¼ cup mini-angled measuring cup with tablespoon markers $8.32 at ) are great stocking stuffers year-after-year.  Small cookbooks are also great for stocking stuffers.  If your stuffing a baker's stocking then So, Sweet! - a collection of 50 baked good recipes from Sur La Table ($9 at with recipes like Almond-Chocolate Spritz Cookies is a great stocking stuffer. — picked by Pam


Under $25 (but too big for the stocking…)

ImageAnyone who loves baking pies and tarts will surely appreciate this French-born rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. In addition to looking quite chic, it makes serving a breeze. A mere $18 (Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table ) will breathe new life into your baking. (Round tarts are so last year.) — picked by Peggy Fallon


ImageThese stain-resistant, neoprene oven mitts look to be indestructible. And, you can toss them into the dishwasher for cleaning. Cloth oven mitts with burn holes may now be a thing of the past. $18.00 at Williams-Sonomapicked by Lisa Lawless   


ImageSt. Helena's Clif Family Winery makes a handy dandy wine pouch that is a perfect gift for friends who love toting some vino along in the great outdoors. These pouches are light, unbreakable, and supposedly have an 80 percent lower carbon footprint than two glass bottles, and 90 percent less waste and less landfill space than two glass bottles. The winery was founded by the folks who invented Clif Bars. Each pouch holds the equivalent of two 750-ml bottles and keeps the wine fresh for as long as a month after opening. Each pouch is a bargain $16.99, too. Choose either a pouch of crisp, unoaked Chardonnay or Cabarnet Sauvignon. Find the pouches online at ClimberPouch or ClifFamilyWinery. — picked by Carolyn Jung


ImageInventive mixologists are using all kinds of flavors in bitters these days, and there have been recipes in magazines for making bitters at home. These bottles come in just the right size with a small, squirt spout for adding a drop or two of homemade bitters to your cocktails. $23.95 at Cocktail Kingdom. — picked by Lisa Lawless  


ImageCloth napkins are ever so much more civilized than paper, and they're better for the environment, too. If you're hesitant to use Grandma's damask every day, check out these 100% cotton easy-care hotel linens available in ivory or white from Pottery Barn. Generously-sized dinner napkins are $24 for 6: cocktail napkins $12 for the same number at Pottery Barn . For a bit extra you can even get them monogramed, or purchase a matching tablecloth or runner. And best of all, linens ship free. — picked by Peggy Fallon


ImageSipping in Style… It's time to recycle those old jelly jars and start drinking out of grown-up glassware. These Venetian-inspired hand-blown tumblers are as suitable for fine wine as they are for your morning orange juice. A bargain at $24 for a set of 4 uniquely stunning designs at Wisteria . — picked by Peggy Fallon

The under $100's -- Kicking it up a notch

ImageHands down, this is the best pizza stone for the grill that I've tried. The Emile Henry round pizza stone is glazed, making it not only beautiful to behold, but a little easier to slide your pizza on and off of it. Founded in 1850 in France, Emile Henry is renowned for its dutch ovens and other ceramic cookware. It's no wonder that its pizza stone heats up so evenly. It's also easier to clean than other stones. You can wipe it off or put it in the dishwasher. The $49.95 stone is available in black at Williams-Sonoma or in blazing red at Sur La Table. — picked by Carolyn Jung


ImageWine & Cheese Pairings — It's hard enough to pick a great wine let alone picking a great cheese to pair with it.  Pairings Wine & Cheese makes both easy with hand selected combinations of delicious artisanal cheeses and wines that make both taste better.  Each pairing includes a bottle of wine perfectly paired with a half-pound of cheese; information on both the wine and cheese; and the option to purchase more of either at a discount.  Available as individual pairings (about $50) or monthly subscriptions in the Wine & Cheese clubs (price depends on number of months) at— picked by Pam

ImageSeveral years ago a dear friend gave me a Michael Aram cake server as a special gift…and so the love affair began. Aram is an American-born artist who honed his metalworking skills in India in the late 1980's. His work can now be seen in many upscale gift shops and department stores; or check out his web site for a special selection of Christmas items and Judaica. My current obsession is a small hand-hammered stainless bowl nestled in an oxidized bronze olive branch. $79 for timeless beauty from Michael Aram. — picked by Peggy Fallon

ImageiPad owners already know how easy it is to cook directly from on-line recipes but depending on the type of carrying case or stand you have the logistics so can be less than ideal.  The ipad Joule by Element Case has a nifty little stand that doesn't tip over, lets you angle for easy viewing while cooking in 3 different positions and doesn't take up much kitchen counter space— the trifecta for the iPad using foodie in the kitchen! $99 at tekcases.   — picked by Pam

Over $100 and Big Ticket Items

ImageFried food lover's looking to limit their fat in-take now have an option - ActiFry is a low-fat fryer that only uses 1 tablespoon of oil to make French frys!  The ActiFry has a hot air distribution system that allows food to be fried with minimal oil while the food rotates inside the ActiFry.  I was surprised by the French fries it produced which are a bit crispier than oven roasted potatoes.  The ActiFry can make enough French fries for four people at a time, and it can be used for any sturdy fried food (the food is rotated in the pan so soft foods won't work as well), along with stir fry's, vegetables, and even risottos.  $249.95 at — picked by Pam


ImageThese domes likely fall into the very special gift category for most of us, but if the occasion comes along, their pretty colors and delicate shapes are lovely. They offer a stunning way to serve pastry and cheeses. $545 - $565 at Joe Cariati. — picked by Lisa Lawless  


Have foodie will travel?  If you've got a foodie on your list who loves traveling (and you've got the budget) here are some options to consider:

Disclosure: Items discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by vendors, publicists, and/or manufacturers.
Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.


Last Updated ( Friday, 25 November 2011 )
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