L’Appart Resto


I decided to treat the husband last weekend to a tasty Sunday brunch (it was Father’s Day) so booked a reservation at a restaurant right in our downtown that we’d walked by many times but hadn’t tried. For some reason we thought it was too fancy or too expensive or too this or that.

We were wrong.

L’Appart Resto is welcoming, reasonably priced, and seriously kid-friendly. From the team that opened Le Garage in Sausalito, L’Appart Resto is a comfortable bistro-style restaurant that offers small plates, fresh salads, and substantial entrées that focus on showcasing simple French classics, big flavors, and seasonal and local ingredients. And the service is amazing. We enjoyed our brunch so much we decided to head there for dinner later in the week.

Along with having a well-rounded menu for brunch/lunch and dinner, L’Appart Resto also has a tasty kid’s menu that had our mouths drooling. Our daughter enjoyed her flaky ham and cheese pastry (we did too)…


The husband and I split the fresh melon soup studded with mint and other bright and fresh flavors…


My husband ordered the seasonal omelette, which was filled with goat cheese and savory fresh tomato basil concassé.

And I had soft-boiled eggs with toast points coated with decadent truffle cream.

It was amazing.


Later in the week there was a fun function downtown that I insisted the entire family attend, so we figured we’d head to L’Appart Resto for an early dinner. And once again we had an awesome dinning experience. We ordered the child-sized Kobe burger for our daughter, which was topped with ooey-gooey French cheese.

l-appart-restoInstead of ordering entrées, the hubs and I decided to taste test with a few small plates, including a bowl of luscious asparagus cream soup, along with a delicious beet salad that was studded with pistachios and French feta cheese.

l-appart-resto-beetsaladWe followed that with soft shell crab over a melon salad with smokey dressing…

l-appart-resto-softshellcrabAnd THE BEST Kobe beef tartar topped with a fresh quail egg.

l-appart-resto-kobetartarHere’s the deal — this is a kid-friendly restaurant that has phenomenal service, but that doesn’t mean the place is running with babes if you’re considering eating there for a romantic or kid-free meal. With indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant is comfortable and welcoming. We didn’t feel rushed or pushed to try the specials or concerned our child was bothering others around us. The menu isn’t huge, but there are options for all tastes. From burgers to lobster, the prices run from $7 to $25 brunch/lunch and dinner.

Check out the menus before heading to L’Appart Resto, but both days we ate there, the specials sounded amazing — and were different (even in the same week). The most important thing? MAKE A RESERVATION.

Bon appétit!

*By the way, I wasn’t paid or bribed or enticed in any way to write this post by L’Appart Resto. I simply wanted to share my wonderful dining experience(s) at this restaurant with you. 

Lunch at Anchor & Hope in San Francisco


Yesterday we were treated to a holiday lunch at the Anchor & Hope by some wonderful friends. My husband’s known this couple for almost 20 years, and has been working with his buddy for over 10. It was a true treat for us to drop the tot off at preschool and then head into the city for this special gathering, and I was looking forward to a tasty lunch (and maybe a mid-day glass of wine — total indulgence!).

Known for their tasty fish dishes, the restaurant is tucked on Minna street and has an ample seating area and a bar for patrons. We had a noon reservation, and when we got there (after struggling to find parking!) the place was packed. Before I even had a moment to look at the menu, a beautiful selection of oysters, perfectly poached shrimp, fresh clams, crab and lobster salad, and a variety of house sauces was placed on our table.



From here we sampled more delicious oysters and also sipped an amazing bottle (or two) of wine.


While watching the food come out of the kitchen it looked like the lobster roll sandwich was the thing to order, and our party ordered their share — along with the seared salmon sandwich (which I ordered).


Then it was time for coffee and dessert, which was also absolutely delicious. In fact the cup of coffee that my husband ordered (that I sipped too) was one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had ever.




But the best thing about our lunch was the amazing service. Our waiter was wonderfully attentive without being overbearing and the rest of the staff filled water glasses and removed plates like silent serving ninjas, making us feel like we were the only table in the place, which we weren’t. The place was packed, and from the smiling and approving faces seen around the restaurant, everyone else was having an awesome time too.

While checking out the dinner menu, which wasn’t much different than the lunch offerings, I had no doubt that the restaurant would be packed again in only a few hours with patrons that would continue streaming in until closing. But, I would suggest hitting Anchor & Hope for lunch — with a reservation of course. You can sit and enjoy a leisurely mid-day meal, without feeling rushed, and not bust the bank. Sandwiches run around $15 to $24, with lunch entrees over $18. And you have to order a few oysters (starting at $2 each), which are shucked perfectly and seriously tasty.

Plan on parking at the garage on Howard and 2nd (which ran us $9) and metered parking is free after 6pm and on Sundays. You’ll love the energy of the restaurant, the fantastic staff, and the sensational fish.

Chicken-n-dumplins (or something) soup

Yeah, my tot is sick. She’s had that hacky cough and a little drippy nose the last few days. I’ve doused her in orange juice, fresh fruit smoothies, and tons of yogurt to help her system work through her wee sickness. I even made a big pot of chicken soup, which she had no interest in at all, but I enjoyed eating while knowing I was deflecting all her little cold germs.

But instead of just making any ol’ boring chicken noodle soup, I made my own dumplings (and chicken stock — but that’s for another day) for a really rich and sick-busting soup/stew/thing. Okay, I’ve never actually made this style of “dumplings” before, but after this first try, I’m hooked.

What I learned is the thinner you roll the dough the better and the longer they simmer the softer they’ll be. In fact by the third re-heating they were seriously delicate and wonderfully tasty. I’ve adjusted the recipe for cooking time…


1 small onion

2 big carrots

3 stalks celery

3 big cloves of garlic

1 slice of lemon

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

8 cups chicken stock

1 pound chicken

2 cups flour

3/4 to 1  cup milk

2 tablespoons butter or shortening (or schmaltz)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Seasoning to taste


Start by chopping your carrots, celery, and onion about the same size and add to a large pot. Dice the garlic into small chunks and toss in too. Give everything a drizzle of olive oil and top with a sprinkle of salt and Italian seasoning. Let hang out over medium-low heat until the edges of the veggies just start to brown.

Now toss in the slice of lemon (you’ll love the flavor this adds!) and the chicken stock. Let things come to a simmer and then add your chicken. Let bubble until it has poached through.

Remove the chicken and let the stock and veggies continue to bubble while you make the dumplings.

Mix together the flour, milk, baking powder, sugar and salt, and then cut in your fat. I used homemade chicken stock for making my soup, so had quite a bit of schmaltz skimmed from the pot to use. But butter or shortening work wonderfully too.

Once the dough comes together, give a quick knead on a dusted counter top and then roll as thin as possible. Use a pizza cutter to cut squares from your dough and then gently slide into your bubbling cauldron of happiness.

While things are bubbling, shred the now-cooled chicken and add to the soup. Here’s where I wasn’t patient enough — after about 20-minutes I ladled myself up a bowl and ate it quite happily with an extra dash of salt and pepper. The dumplings still had a bit of a bite to them, but they still tasted wonderful.

BUT, the next day, after letting the soup come to a nice and hot boil, the soup tasted even better. So my suggestion would be to cover your soup and let it gently simmer for at least 30-minutes after adding your dumplings — you could probably let them go even longer. Then give a taste test, adjust seasonings as needed, and ladle yourself up a bowl.

*If your stock is too thin for your liking, thicken with 1/2 cup milk and 1 tablespoon flour mixed nice and smooth. Slowly drizzle into the soup while stirring and watch as it instantly thickens.




Echelon Vineyards: All kinds of wonderful

This week was full of ups and downs. The tot and I had a few disagreements (but what’s new, right?), a couple of things changed with my work stuff, and the cats continued being cats and waking me up the minute they saw the sun. But, there was one wonderfully, shining moment early in the week – the moment an actually somewhat-hunky guy showed up on my doorstep bearing wine – and he wasn’t my husband.

Thanks to Echelon Vineyards and the Clever Girls Collective, I had the opportunity to sample a few bottles of Echelon wine. Let me tell you up front, I wasn’t paid to write this review – just offered a few bottles to taste test and then share my honest opinion. I mean, really, twist my arm and all that stuff.

(I couldn’t wait to start sampling!)

Honestly? I pretty much like all wine. But, I do have a bit of a wine-snob husband. He worked his way through college while waiting tables at the San Ysidro Ranch and part of his job was checking out wine – and we’re talking the good stuff. He’s a bit of a snoot and is brutally honest while tasting, so I enlisted him to assist. I decided what better way to really get a full understanding of the flavors than by cooking up a special dinner for each bottle.

Let me tell you.

All kinds of wonderful.

We started out with the 2010 Echelon Vineyards Chardonnay that I paired with grilled garlic and oregano marinated boneless skinless chicken thighs over rice and fresh spinach topped with homemade tzatziki sauce. We had a sip of the Chardonnay before eating and both commented on how light and smooth it was. Neither of us had read the label, but the husband noted instantly the hints of honey, pear, and apple. It went wonderfully with our dinner, and, I’ll be honest, there wasn’t any wine left once we were finished. Echelon’s Chardonnay is a complex but light wine that I would bring to any barbecue.


The next night we cracked open a bottle of the 2010 Echelon Vineyards Red Blend. We both had a bit of hesitation – the idea of a red blend had me concerned (headache in the morning), but we figured we’d have a glass and then (potentially) use the rest for cooking. While putting the finishing touches on our oven-baked vegetarian eggplant parmesan, we sampled a small glass and both couldn’t keep sipping. Once again, neither of us had read the label, but commented on the light, fruity flavor of the blend and called out the oaky-ness as well as the smoothness, which didn’t leave a dry feeling in the mouth. Once again, there wasn’t any wine left at the end of dinner….


A few nights later I made barbecue chicken breasts along with a hot lentil salad with roasted red pepper, radishes, and beets. We couldn’t wait to try the 2010 Echelon Vineyards Pinot Grigio because the other bottles had been so good. Let’s just say we’d both had a nice, big glass before we even sat down to dinner. It was so cold and fresh and the husband noted the light but super-crisp flavor with the slight fruit undertones.  I simply tasted all kinds of goodness. We both decided this was our favorite bottle of the three – by far. It also went wonderfully with our dinner. This is a perfect summer wine and lovely with anything from grilled meats to big salads


Echelon Vineyards has won its fair share of awards and I can see why. Their wines are easy to drink and not overly anything in any way. And, they are wonderfully priced ($10-$15 per bottle), making them taste even better.

Head on over to Echelon Vineyards for more information about their wines and where you can pick up a bottle. Do it – seriously, do it now. You’re entitled to a nice glass of wine!


*Once again, I wasn’t paid to write this post – just provided with some really amazingly good wine to sample. I also wasn’t asked to write a blog post about the wines, but I did because they were that good.

Matzo pizza (with homemade pizza sauce)

matzo pizza

I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about pizza lately. Crisp, thin crust topped with zesty tomato sauce and coated with amazing cheese… Yeah. I just can’t stop. I make lots and lots of pizzas with the tot, but I’m really trying to find ways to cut the calories. With Easover behind us, we still have a few boxes of matzo hanging around, and they’re going to be there for next year’s Easover unless something is done with them.


Pizza sauce is a seriously tasty thing. It can be chunky or smooth, salty or sweet, tangy or spicy-hot. All I know is that I didn’t have any in the fridge when I had the brilliant idea of using a piece of matzo as a base for my super-low calorie pizza. I did have an old can of tomatoes in the pantry, which wasn’t very appealing. But, with a bit of love, that can of tomatoes turned into something seriously flavorful, and I had total matzo pizza success.


1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, strained

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Dash of red pepper

Couple of drops of Worcestershire sauce (optional)

What you do

This sauce is a snap to make. Simply open the can of tomatoes and strain away any liquid. You want to use un-seasoned canned tomatoes (I also used organic). Put those tomatoes in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend. If you like your sauce chunky, blend for just a few pulses. But, if you prefer things nice and smooth, blend for as long as you like. If you’ve got Worcestershire sauce hanging out in your pantry, don’t shy away from adding a few drops. This adds a lovely smoky flavor and just a bit of an earthy saltiness, which makes the tomato sauce even better.

To make your own mini-matzo pizzas, preheat your oven to 450 F. Place a single piece of matzo on a sheet pan and then coat with a few big spoonfuls of that fresh pizza sauce. Add your favorite pizza toppings, a sprinkling of cheese, and then pop in the oven until the top is bubbling.



Toddler lunch date: Grilled cheese and apple sandwiches

So says Sarah...

For the last couple of days the tot and I have enjoyed some time off from the preschool. It’s spring break, which means doing lots of messy projects at home, cuddling with an afternoon movie, and making tasty stuff.


I’m kind of in love with spring break right now.

Today I decided we would have a lunch date. Instead of feeding the tot her regular side of apple sauce with a plain cheese sandwich – and making something for myself later while she napped, I mixed it up a bit by making a sandwich both of us would love.

Grilled cheese and apple sandwiches.

Yeah, this is a kid-friendly sandwich, but it’s also a wonderfully tasty and fulfilling adult light-lunch option. Enjoy with a small cup of soup or side salad and you’ve got an awesome lunch. Just go a bit lighter on the mustard for the kiddies.

What you need to make one sandwich…

2 slices of whole-wheat bread

Room temperature butter

Dijon mustard

2 thick slices of Jarlsburg (Swiss) cheese

1/4 a Gala apple thinly sliced (you can leave the skin on)

What you do…

Start by giving one side of a piece of whole-wheat bread a light coating of butter. Place that slice, butter side down, in a pan over medium-to-low heat.

Cover that slice of bread with one of the slices of Jarlsburg. Good Jarlsburg cheese is nutty and ooey-gooey, which blends wonderfully with the sweet Gala apples, and tang of the mustard.

Thinly slice one-forth of the apple, avoiding the core, and layer six to eight slices on top of the cheese.

Top the apples with the second slice of cheese.

Give the second piece of whole-wheat bread a nice coating of good Dijon mustard, place on top of the sandwich, and lightly coat the outside of the slice of bread with butter.

By now the sandwich is probably ready for a flip – do so gently with a spatula to ensure the whole pile of goodness doesn’t fall apart.

Let the grilled cheese and apple sandwich toast until the cheese is gooey – about 3 to 4-minutes on each side.

You know that melty-cheesy-oh-so-good thing?


Grilled cheese and apple sandwich




Dinner every night – Chicken

We had chicken for dinner the entire week. It just worked out that way – we had chicken in the freezer, so chicken we ate. I’m also seriously feeling a bit of a pinch after getting our final tax bill. Let’s just say we’ll probably be eating cheep cuts of meats and lots and lots of beans and veggies for quite some time. And, with all the drama over pink slime this week, chicken every night was more than fine by me. While at our local market the other day picking up a few essentials (milk, eggs, chocolate…), I asked my meat guy about the dreaded pink slime. He waved his hand behind him showcasing several butchers grinding up choice bits of beef, packaging them up nice and neat, and then proudly handing the freshly ground goodness over to smiling customers.

I grabbed some and added it to my cart looking forward to breaking the string of chicken dinners…

But, it was a wonderful challenge finding a few fun new ways to make tasty chicken dinners. We had a winner with pineapple chicken, tried making foil-wrapped chicken (which was good but needed some tweaking), and simply roasted both dark and white meat  with fresh herbs and garlic. Chicken really is yummy – even with only a few ingredients.

Top row from left to right: Pounded chicken breasts dredged in flour and seared in canola oil over garlic mashed potatoes and fresh spinach, French green lentils stewed with carrots and onions topped with hot roasted chicken thighs, Pineapple simmered chicken over couscous and green beans. Second row from left to right: Ham and spinach stuffed chicken breasts with beets and garlic rosemary white beans, Foil-wrapped chicken thighs with steamed asparagus and sticky rice, Shredded steamed chicken tacos with lettuce and chopped scallion alongside carrot, celery spicy beans.



Do you know the way to San Jose…..

Today has been a day. After waking with the sun (and the tot), the hubs and I did some research hunting for a fun and tasty restaurant near the San Jose airport. Why? Let’s just say we had a good friend flying in from the east coast and had a few hours to hang in San Jose.

Being from a bit more north than San Jose, we had no idea where to start.

When I did the initial search, In-N-Out, Chevron, and Mc D’s popped up, which aren’t the best locations for a leisurely and flavorful lunch, and introduction to the (extended) Bay Area for our friend.

As we headed out, I channeled my inner positivity and super-duper wished for something amazing to be hiding around-and-about the San Jose International (yeah, that’s right, International) airport.

And, then, there it was. Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food.

Smoke was billowing in the sky and you could smell it. SMELL IT.

A hut of a place on the side of the airport beckoned us off the road. Sure, you could still see the air traffic control tower from the parking lot. Yes, the planes were just barely buzzing over the roof of the restaurant. Yup, the place looked like it might fall over…

But, in the time we waited for our friend to get himself off the plane and into his rental car, the parking lot over-loaded with cars and people and families and more cars of people continuously charging into the place. With a bit of outdoor seating, Lillie Mae’s has enough space to maybe sit 75 (and a staff that has no clue what’s going on) and food that will leave you thinking about it days later.

The guys out back were basting and turning the ribs, the bustling staff behind the tall bar (in front of the awesomely big fish tank) fresh-fryed the crispy cornmeal coated catfish by order, and someone somewhere was making the most amazing mac-n-cheese you will ever have ever – just ethereal. Because it was one of their first Sunday buffet seatings (and half of the restaurant was reserved for a private birthday party) no one really seemed to know what was happening, but it all worked out.

Fried chicken. BBQ ribs. Corn on the cob. Mac-n-cheese. CORNBREAD. Biscuits and gravy. Fried catfish. FRIED CATFISH. And more. Yes, I know. You are wondering why I don’t have pictures of the food to share. (I totally forgot because I was in food nirvana.)

The place was packed beyond packed.  You can get a beer or a soda at the House of Soul Food, order at the counter for take-out or eat-in, or watch the game on the big-screen TV. This place is literally next-door to the airport and it kicks In-N-Out’s ass any day.

So the next time you fly into the San Jose International airport, are picking someone up, or in the area for any reason, stop in to Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food and try a brisket platter or sample some biscuits and gravy. Make it a Sunday destination for the ($20 a plate but worth it) Sunday Brunch Buffet. Get some ribs that will make your hands smell all day…

This place is out of control.

For reals.

Sunday spectacular: O’so Brewing Company

I just returned from a dreamy, but extremely busy and action packed, visit to the homeland for a Thanksgiving celebration. While there, my father couldn’t resist taking all us kids to his favorite place.

O’so Brewing Company.

With their new and expanded location, it was really fun to stop in, chat with owner Katina, and even sneak a peek behind the scenes with Zen beer brew master, Mike.

Here he is making sure things taste just right….

Along with enjoying a couple of glasses of our favorites (I love the Big O), we also took some back to my parent’s house with us. And, because we all couldn’t get enough of O’so hand crafted beer, I added some Night Train to our turkey brine. Brining a turkey is easier than you think and the result is out of this world. As we gobbled that birdie up on Thanksgiving, everyone agreed that O’so beer did the trick in adding the perfect flavor to our special meal.


I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the new digs at O’so Brewery Company while chatting with Mike (that is until my camera locked up). It was awesome to see the fresh hops before being used, the cooler full of beer ready to head out to stores – along with neighboring Applebee’s locations – and the bar packed with patrons ready to savor some kick ass beer.

What’s not to love?

I totally enjoyed brining our holiday turkey with O’so beer – and it really turned out amazingly. Although I wasn’t able to bring any home with me, here are a couple of other beer-tastic recipes I’m planning on tackling with some local northern California beers…

Rustic Beer Bread

Beer Soup 

Dark Beer Chili



Simple poached eggs


Some mornings all I want is a simple poached egg on an English muffin. It’s the most comforting breakfast, and really so much easier than you think. There are no fancy gadgets involved, no unusual cooking techniques, and only a few ingredients.

Start by bringing about 4 cups of water to a simmer in a deep saucepan. I like to add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and a couple of good shakes of salt to the water.

Now go pop your English muffin in the toaster and grab your eggs.

Use a spoon to stir the water in a circle, creating a spinning vortex of hot happy water ready for your eggs. The moving water helps hold your eggies together when you plop them in.

Crack one of your eggs right into the center of the saucepan and then add another. If you’re doing more than two eggs, you can gently stir the water again and add up to two more eggs without crowding the hot tub. Things aren’t going to look too sexy right now, but that’s okay.

Go ahead and use a spoon to gently prod the eggs, making sure they aren’t stuck to the bottom of your pan.

Oh – your English muffin is ready! Give it a slather of butter and place on a plate.

Your eggs have been happily simmering for about a minute or so. You may have noticed some floaty bits of egg in the water, which you can remove with a spoon if you’d like. Gently lift out an egg with a slotted spoon to test its doneness. If the egg is still a bit jiggly in the middle, you’ve got nice runny yolks. If you prefer a less runny egg, let things simmer for another 20-seconds or so.

Place your finished eggs on your English muffin, dust with salt and pepper, and have at them.

Sure, you could whip up a sauce to ladle over the top or put some perfectly cooked bacon under those eggs, but I’m a purist.

I just want perfectly poached eggs.

And these are just about absolutely perfect.