Holm Family Cookbook

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Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

A Delightful Meal in Lisbon

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 17, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Troy, my husband and past president of the Plymouth Foothill Rotary, and I thought the 104th Rotary International Convention in Lisbon, Portugal was an opportunity not to be missed. His love affair with the Portuguese culture and my heritage confirmed our desires to head out.  After our all night journey, we worked up quite an appetite! We set out by foot from the apartment where we were staying in the Chiado district of Lisbon, Portugal. We walked past a restaurant with specials on their chalkboard menu ... Little did we know the fine food we were going to experience.


BCN @ Lisbon Portugal

The chalkboard at BCN - Beber & Comer by Novamesa - is what drew us in. One side was in English, the other in Portuguese. What appealed to me on the board is actually what Troy ordered - the grilled Mackerel. Our waiter was excellent! Raised in Toronto, his English was much appreciated as he explained the details of the dishes.

Inside BCN

We started with "Para comecar ..." (to start) and chose a traditional Portuguese appetizer - Batata brava. These fried potato squares were covered with a delicious cream and paprika. We also ordered Chamucas de frango ou Legumes - inspired by the cuisine of India, a fried pocket adequately curried. This was served with a Thai style sweet and hot dipping sauce.


Batata brava (i.e. fried potato squares)

Chamucas de frango ou Legumes

Our next dishes were chosen from "Do Mar..." (sea) I chose another traditional dish - Brandade de bacalhau gratindo.  Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod and in a culinary context - dried and salted cod. The was cod blended with mashed potatoes and cheese, baked to perfection with a crispy top! The picture of the partially eaten dish does not do it justice. This was accompanied with greens, with a very light dressing. Troy ordered Cavala grelhada com tagliatelle de legumes e crisp de cebola - grilled Mackerel on a bed of lettuce. Some of the dishes were served on a dark piece of slate, providing a contrast, which accented the food.


Brandade de bacalhau gratindo

Cavala grelhada com tagliatelle de legumes e crisp de cebola

We hadn't planned on dessert, but the other foods were so delicious I had to order something. From the "Sobremesas" (desserts), our server recommended one of the baked goods as opposed to Gelado do dia. Knowledgeable advice! We chose Cheese cake Novamesa - inspired by the sister restaurant. Not being that fond of cheese cake, I ordered it anyway, knowing that Troy enjoys it. This cheese cake was deliciously dense, the crust thick, but not hardened. The berries on top added color and sweetness. I was not disappointed.


Sobremesas - Cheese cake Novames

The first restaurant we experienced in Lisbon was a delight. We did not have the opportunity to return ... so many restaurants, so little time. This restaurant was a wonderful introduction to Portugal's delicious foods, which inspired me to eat as much as I could!


Check tray... What to do with old keyboards!

Should you have the opportunity to eat a Portuguese meal, do it! If it's in Portugal, all the better.

Tchauzinho! Susie

A Day in Upcountry Amador County

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 21, 2013 at 1:10 AM

Upcountry in Amador County

It was a beautiful end of winter day and my long-time friend, Lou Ann, suggested going for a snowshoe. We ate a hearty brunch, headed up Highway 88 to Silver Lake, which is referred to as Upcountry in Amador County. The intention of eating a hearty brunch was so that we could head to the Volcano Union Inn on our way back down the mountain.

The snow conditions on the mountain were perfect. There had been some good snow a few days before. The sun was shining and not a soul was on the lake. I enjoyed the peace, the sunshine, and beauty of the pure white snow. When we decided to head back, I noticed my boot was coming apart. By the time we returned to the car, the boot had ripped apart all the way around!

My boot!

Of course during the snowshoe we worked up a thirst and an appetite! At the car we had some chilled Rich Mahogany and Ganja Juice Altamont Beer Works brews waiting for us. Some trail mix and apples and the brew curbed our appetite a bit until we could get to the Volcano Union Inn.

A growlette of Altamont Beer Works beer

I have been following Volcano Union Inn on Facebook for quite a while. Every Monday they have a special that is posted on Facebook – this week’s was Shrimp Louie, Salisbury Steak, mushrooms, horseradish mashed potatoes, and Strawberry Cobbler ala mode for $23! I was so pleased to arrive in time for dinner but we wanted to see the menu before ordering. The special was a fantastic deal – but Lou Ann and I saw other items we couldn’t wait to try! The wine and beer selection was diverse – we started with beer. I chose a Raging Bitch IPA--I'd had it in NY and loved it. The dishes we decided upon were a Mushroom Bruschetta, Beet Salad with golden balsamic vinaigrette, Fried Chicken with sides of smoked cheddar macaroni and cheese along with greens. Everything was delicious!!! So delicious we decided to order some Crispy Duck Wings to take home to my husband Troy. Unfortunately, they were sold out. Though we were full, the food had been so delectable that we just had to each order a dessert. I ordered the Meyer Lemon Crème Brulee with thyme shortbread. There were three small shortbreads, so we took one of those to Troy. Lou Ann ordered the Lava Cake with blood orange crème and candied blood orange along with a glass of Andis Barbera – a perfect pairing.

Mushroom Brushetta

Fried Chicken with smoked mac and cheese

Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee

Lava Cake

The service and ambiance was relaxing and comfortable. One of the servers I recognized from the community fundraiser, Chowda Chomp. I so enjoyed the chowder he and his teammate prepared. It was a halibut and salmon chowder – my favorite. They came in second place overall. I mentioned this to him and Lou Ann said she loved chowder, so he brought us out a taste of chowder!

Our clam chowder sample!

Volcano is off the beaten path; a very small, pleasant community. There is a post office, community hall, a general store, a hotel, a B & B, a bakery, a bar, a theater and a few other businesses I am not recalling. My friend, Jacquie Tarchala, has her Kneading Dough Bakery in the Jug and Rose Bakery, Monday through Wednesday. Should you be heading up to Daffodil Hill soon (it opened March 15, 2013) – the bakery would be a great place to visit. I highly recommend it!

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. – JRR Tolkien


Eating My Way Around the Globe

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on January 1, 2013 at 9:25 AM

I don’t have the opportunity to travel as much as I would like, so the next best thing for me is to step out the door of my office in downtown Livermore, head a couple of blocks in any direction, and pop into the nearest eatery … traveling the globe vicariously through the victuals of our local restaurants! The dining scene has done a 360 since our youth; the only worldly choice growing up was Chinese food at the Yin Yin, owned by the Chin Family (40 something of our family just congregated there last week!). What really reminded me of this change was my latest expedition to Afghanistan by means of the new De Afghanan Kabob House (which unfortunately replaced La Papusa House, where I would venture to El Salvador by means their papusas). I had never eaten Afghani food before, so Rebecca and Ed, two of my foody workmates joined me for lunch, and it was indeed a memorable sojourn. We ordered at least eight items, the wide variety of flavors was amazing, and very healthy too.


We started with Kado Borani, which translated means roasted butternut squash topped with garlic sour cream and dried mint, healthy and cooked to perfection.

Kado Borani, aka Butternut Squash

We tried a half order of both zucchini and leek Bolani, little pastries (well, not so little, it was actually quite large for a half order!) filled with sautéed zucchini and leek with great homemade cilantro chutney, and more yogurt.

Afghani Bolani and Chutney

Feeling adventurous, we opted for a third appetizer, the Mantu, pasta filled with ground beef, onions, garlic and spices topped with a vegetable sauce, garlic sour cream and dried mint. An order of Afghan bread comes with almost every dish, it was light as a hotel pillow, and more than we could ever finish.


Mantu and Afghan Bread

We split the Triple Kabob, Murge, Teka and Chaplee - aka -chicken, beef and a grilled ground sirloin patty mixed with scallions, crushed red pepper and plenty of spices. The meats are soaked in homemade, full-o-flavor marinade, and were moist, tender and delicious. At this point along the journey, I decided that I would like to be adopted by the Afghani family that owns the restaurant, I want to eat like this every day!


Triple Kabob, Murge, Teka and Chaplee

All of the Kabobs are served with Afghan rice or potato salad, we tried both of course! The brown Afghan rice was actually a white basmati seasoned with a variety of spices and onions, and the Shornakhod, or in English, Afghan Potato Salad, was not your average American mayonnaisy potato salad, but an uncommonly light, vinegary, fresh potato salad with garbanzo beans and chili flakes.


Shornakhod, i.e. Afghan Potato Salad

At this point, there was absolutely no room left for dessert, we had a big box of leftovers to go, but according to the 5-star yelp reviews, next time, I'm leaving room for the Sheer Yakh Jhala (i.e. ice cream) and Baklava!

Once you’ve tasted your way through Afghanistan, now it’s time to dig out your passport and cross the border into Mexico. You can find a Mexican restaurant on almost every block of downtown Livermore: Casa Orozco for Shrimp Cocktail Veracruz, Anita’s Veggie Burrito is my favorite choice on the menu at Anita’s Mexican Restaurant, in my opinion El Charro has the best Sope in town, feast on Tequila’s Taqueria’s huge Burrito de Camarones, drop in on Los Caporales for breakfast with Chorizo and Eggs or a hot bowl of Pozole, or for an “uptown” flavor of Guadalajara visit El Sacromonte for their housemade Sangrita Tequila chaser (along with a laundry list of tequilas) and “Comala” Stuffed Avocado.


Book your passage to the Mediterranean by way of Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen for Baba Ganuch (I just like to say that!) or Shawarama, plus, they have belly dancers! Or imagine the blue waters and islands of Greece while dining at Demitri’s Taverna, where they launch your trip with Skordalia, onto Moussaka, and end with the family's Baklava. Hop the gondola to Italy by way of Bruno’s Italian Cuisine with a plate of Linguini Frutti di Mare or their thin crust Pizza; or peddle over to the French Casse-Croûte Bakery for fresh baked crusty baguette or Croissants et Chocolatines, Merci beaucoup!


Since we can't have a home-cooked tiffin lunch delivered to our office by a dabbawala, add some Indian spice to your life by visiting Sansar’s lunch buffet for their Chicken Tikka Masala with a cold bottle of Taj Indian beer or enjoy India Clay Oven’s warm Naan, Parantha or Tandoori. Trek to “The Land of the Rising Sun” at Kawa Sushi for their soul warming Miso, Spicy Spider or Unagi; other stops along the Japanese coastline include Yamota Hibachi Express for tender Hibachi, or steaming Udon at Roppongi Sushi. You can then head east on the Indochina Peninsula to the Saigon Café and enjoy a steaming bowl of Shrimp Pho or crunchy Clay Pot; get your Bibim Bab fix at Korea BBQ & Tofu; feast on the fresh herbs and teas from the Kingdom of Thailand at Lemon Grass with their Pad Thai and Kao-Pad-Goong or up the block to the modern Star Anise for Roti Paratha, where they will treat you like the King of Siam! Travel the Silk Road into China for Chow Mein at the Yin Yin, Lo’s China Bistro for a Sizzling Platter or Uncle Yu’s for Classic Peking Duck with Bao.

Happy trails to you, and Bon Voyage!  Nancy

A Worthwhile Trip to the Googleplex

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 12, 2012 at 9:50 AM

I was invited to a "Think Performance" session at the Googleplex yesterday (Google’s corporate headquarters), and almost didn’t go…what a mistake that would have been! What a campus they have, it was amazing to say the least.

But what really got me out of the house at 6:30am was the offer to receive Google's Nexus 7 Tablet just for attending, yowza! But why, you may ask, would I be talking about Google on a foodie blog? Because of their lunch of course!

After the 3 hour session pitching Google ads (very effective by the way, I’m in), like cattle to a trough, we all headed to lunch and lined up for what we thought was a buffet, but in actuality, was just the fruit and cheese display. Soon, the service staff began rolling in with small passed trays of lunch items, first, an oyster shooter in a small Asian spoon with a jalapeno mignonette, bang, what a way to start! My hands were full when the first round of Cheddar Burger Bites passed by (animal style with thousand island and grilled onions!), then a small triangle of grilled cheese with an old fashioned tomato soup shot. On this cloudy autumn day that really hit the spot.

Most of us were milling about, so my hands were full again when the roasted beet kabob passed by the first and second round, but I was able to grab one on the third pass, absolutely delicious, red and golden beets on a skewer. I spotted a meatball tray, but heard the word lamb, spicy lamb with cucumber raita to be exact, and chickened out - if you’re familiar with our blog, you know that most of my generation of the Holm family is averse to lamb, we raised them for 4-H and can’t quite stomach it.

Then another vegetarian choice rounded the curve, a mini falafel on a pita triangle with a great tzatziki sauce. And they just kept rolling in, I spotted a chicken skewer coming by, it was tandori with a yogurt sauce, yum.

Everything was so tasty and beautifully plated, I had to go thank the chefs for this unexpected lunch that was way beyond expectation, as was the entire morning. This was Google’s onsite catering team, there is another kitchen that serves their cafeteria. Bravo team Google!

Then, for the pièce de résistance, they had hired Harvey, who specializes in mini donuts, oh my goodness, they were lighter than air. I prefer simple desserts and chose the sugar cinnamon version, but there were plenty of choices, especially for you chocolate lovers.

I grabbed his card, I want Harvey’s Gourmet Mini Donuts to come to an event in Livermore!

Thanks for an incredible morning Google, well worth the horrible 2 hour commute! Nancy

Local Roots Food Tours in Murphys, California

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 12, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Holm Family Cookbook recipe testers and Susie Calhoun all set for a food and history tour of Murphys, California

This past weekend, some of our cookbook recipe testers and I, gathered in Murphys, California "Queen of the Sierra" to experience a food and history tour. A tour was booked with LocalRoots Food Tours. We met Lara, our tour guide, at the gazebo in the Murphys Community Park. Tours usually accommodate ten people. Ours actually had seven, five friends and a fun foodie couple from Sacramento. The couple have been to various cooking classes internationally and shared some of their travels with us as we walked through Murphys.

Melanie, chef & co-owner of Newsome-Harlow (standing) and our tour guide Lara (sitting)

The first historical stop was the Murphys Pokey, where Lara shared the early history of Murphys. Off we walked to the Newsome-Harlow tasting room, one of my favorites in Murphys. Melanie Klann, chef and co-owner, is known for her use of local produce. She had prepared a butter roll, with fig jam, Swiss cheese and bacon; paired with Newsome-Harlow 2010, Calaveras County Zin. The tasting room would be both the beginning and the end of our tour.


Butter roll, with fig jam, Swiss cheese and bacon at Newsome-Harlow

Next stop was the Aria Bakery. FRESH and delicious would best describe their products. The bakery is very small, but full of delicacies. Here we picked up our potato onion thyme focaccia and then moved to the patio of the Marisolio Tasting Bar, a tasting bar of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The variety of oils and vinegars was extensive and flavorful. They provide the opportunity to taste all the oils and vinegars and once you make a selection of oil or vinegar to buy, they will bottle your selection.


Aria Bakery (left) and the Marisolio Tasting Bar

At the historic Murphys Hotel, we learned about all the dignitaries who stayed at the hotel on their way to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Next stop was the E Clampus Vitas Wall of Comparative Ovations. For those of you who have not heard of the “Clampers” or seen one of the ECV plaques, I suggest you check out this website for a bit of history: http://www.yerbabuena1.com/history.htm.  I have been to Murphys many times and known many Clampers, but had never seen this wall – it's an outside museum!


The E Clampus Vitas Wall of Comparative Ovations

Off we walked to the far end of Murphys to Val du Vino Winery. The winery is owned by Jonathan and Jeannine, a well traveled and diverse couple. Both were behind the wine bar, but Jonathan was our host and winemaker. We tasted five wines, concluding with the 2009 Spanish Dragon. The multi award winning Spanish Dragon is a Tempranillo with a touch of Grenache. It was definitely my favorite. On Fridays during the summer Val du Vino is host to a Farmers Market, and on this day, was host to a wedding.


Johnathan our host and winemaker at the Val du Vino Winery

Upon leaving Val du Vino, we walked back into town via a back street to The Spice Tin. This shop is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Murphys and had a tunnel that led to the bar of the Murphys Hotel. The walls were lined with fresh spices and some local food products. Of particular interest to me was the Himalayan salt. These slabs can be used for cooking and chilling. For tasting was Dukkah, an Egyptian inspired blend of nuts; which is great for coating over fish, fowl or veggies. I loved the toasty flavor, which was intensified with the olive oil it was served with.


The Spice Tin shop (left) and the Himalayan salt display

As we traveled back down the main street, we walked down an alley on the way to V Restaurant Bar and Bistro at the Victoria Inn. Known for their fine dining; Dan Murray the chef, buys the best and changes the menu weekly. We were seated at the quaint bar and served a delightful plate. Presented on a picturesque plate was a petite Caprese salad on a skewer, a succulent BBQ pork rib resting on a mixed potato salad, and a Devil on Horseback (blue cheese stuffed date, wrapped in bacon and deep fried) – a personal favorite! Fabulous!


The delightful plate served at the V Restaurant Bar and Bistro at the Victoria Inn

On our way to Alchemy we stopped in at Nelson's Candies.This is owned by the same people who have Nelson’s Candy Kitchen in Columbia.The candies looked delightful, but this group was saving ourselves for the Cupcake Wars winner!


Lara guided us down to the Alchemy Restaurant and Market at the opposite end of Murphys. Alchemy Chef, Jason Wright served us black mussels, fries with scallion aioli. This traditional Belgian fare was paired with a De Proefrouwerij Flanders Fred--a Belgian beer. This unique beer was a collaborative effort of two breweries using a wild fermented sour lambic and wood aged Hair of the Dog. I loved that we were served food paired with beer!


Black mussels and fries paired with a De Proefrouwerij Flanders Fred

Our last food stop was at Lila & Sage. Waiting for us was the award winning Honey and Lavendar cupcake. Owner Karen Henderson’s creation helped Murphys see a surge in business when Cupcake Wars brought the Food Network to Murphys!


Lila & Sage, home of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars' winning cupcake

After three and a half hours of touring, feasting and enjoying history; our tour ended with a more extensive tasting at Newsome-Harlow. I purchased Train Wreck, a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine I enjoy drinking and sharing with friends. It is here we said good bye to Lara and thanked her for generous hospitality and knowledge.


My friends, former colleagues, and I retired to one’s home in Saddle Creek to watch the sunset. Here we reminisced about the tour and the wonderful time we had on the Local Roots Food Tour. Based in Auburn, Local Roots gives tours in Sacramento, Murphys, and soon Nevada City.


The sunset in Saddle Creek


What a fun and filling way to spend a day!


The Coffee Pot in Gallatin Gateway

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 16, 2012 at 10:05 AM

If you see this truck on Highway 191 in Montana, be sure to stop by for some eats

Last month my daughters and I took a spur of the moment trip to Montana to stay with my cousin Becky and her daughter at their family's cabin in West Yellowstone, Montana. One of the day trips we took was to Bozeman. As we were cruising along Highway 191 to Bozeman we stopped for coffee at the Coffee Pot in Gallatin Gateway, which is an all in one bakery, cafe, and pottery shop.

The Coffee Pot is in a quaint log cottage with a front porch equipped with rocking chairs. Outside an old rock chimney and colorful flowers add even more charm to the place.  Inside to the left is a small dining area staged around a rock fireplace. To the right is Mountain Arts handmade pottery displayed for sale on antique cabinets.

Some of my favorite flowers, hollyhocks, grow in the yard

The dining area

Mountain Arts Pottery displayed for sale

The cafe and bakery is in the middle of the cottage. The food and coffee is served in the beautiful handmade pottery.

The cafe menus

Check out the cinnamon roll in the bottom shelf!

Big surprise, we ended up ordering more than just coffee once we got inside the Coffee Pot. It was, however, nearly lunchtime so we had lunch. The sandwiches we ordered in the cafe were made with soft rolls baked in the bakery. Besides the sandwiches, Laina and I had to try some of the blueberry crumble pie. I think I just drooled on my arm thinking about that piece of pie that I split with Laina.

Instead of potato chips, I had grilled zucchini chips with my sandwich

Egg salad sandwich and tomato and basil soup

Pulled pork sandwich and vegetable soup

Iced tea served in handmade pottery

This wasn't our only stop at the Coffee Pot during our vacation in Montana. Whenever we were in the area we stopped by for refreshments. Online reviews about the Coffee Pot indicate they make the best cinnamon rolls around. I didn't try one, but they sure did look good.

Sitting here wishing I had a piece of that blueberry crumble pie right now,


A Layover in Dallas Worth Planning For

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM

Next time you have a layover in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport , tack on a couple of hours and find your way over to the Hard Eight BBQ in Coppell, Texas. Do whatever it takes – rent a car, hail a taxi, call a cousin – whatever…the brisket, and the experience, is worth the effort!

On our flight back from New Orleans, we had a layover in Dallas. Fortunately, our cousin Lori lives close by, so we arranged a 4-hour layover (any longer than 4 hours and you pay a fortune in air miles) to sneak in some Texas BBQ and see her Texas home. Like we didn’t eat enough in New Orleans, but that’s a whole other story to be told later!

Lori picked us up from the airport and had her daughters Jamie and Jessica and their families that live close by meet us at Hard Eight Pit Bar-B-Q in Coppell, a 10-15 minute drive from the airport (depending on construction!). With 5 little grandsons, this is definitely the place where you feel comfortable bringing the kids. Hard Eight is amazing, from the moment you open your car door in the parking lot, the smoke from the Texas mesquite BBQ pits puts you in its spell!! You start outside under the huge barn roof covering multiple smoking pits, and the line snakes around until you reach the pit master, where pulls the meat off the pit and slices it to order on the spot.

The pit master wields his weapon

This is the real deal, mesquite smoked Texas-style barbecue, cooked low and slow over open (and closed) pits - a cooking method the German settlers brought to the Texas Hill Country over a century ago. These pits are smokin’ 24 hours a day. I’m not sure if it was the humidity from New Orleans and Dallas, the heat, or the smoke, but all of the photos on my iPhone came out in a haze!

At the beginning of the line is a small grill where you can order up a rib eye or sirloin steak, but we were waiting for the meat by the pound! There’s no china or white tablecloths in this establishment, they slice and serve up your meat from the pit to your paper-covered tray!

Mesquite smoked meats cooked low and slow at the Hard Eight

They tried to warn us ahead of time to not ask for too much meat because you really do want to try everything: brisket (gotta have that, we’re in Texas for crying out loud!), “fall-off-tha-bone” ribs, chicken, turkey, sausage that’s mild or HOT, pork chops, and these delectable little chicken nugget popper things that have jalapeno and cheese in the middle and bacon wrapped around the outside, yowza! You can also get corn on the cob and baked potatoes right off the pit. They have two barbecue sauces to choose from, sweet and spicy, and oh yeah, they were good (not that the brisket needs it!).

The long awaited brisked sliced to order

After moving through the line in the 90+ Texas heat, along with the fires from the pits and the smoke, you enter the swinging wooden doors and find the family style air-conditioned dining hall, whew. Great log cabin, cowboy themed setting (we learned that Hard Eight can be defined as the eight seconds of a bull ride), I knew I was back in Texas. Your next lineup is the “fixins” where you can start with sliced white bread to soak up any stray juices, potato salad, jalapeno sweet corn (my favorite), coleslaw of course, roasted cornbread salad or Mac-n-cheese.

And then there’s the dessert lineup, pecan pie, cobblers, “slap-yo’-gran’ma-good” banana puddin’ and more. At the end of the line, they put your tray on the scale and check you out. But that’s not really the end…they have a station with great tasting all-you-can-eat pinto beans with jalapenos and bacon (very dangerous for me, especially when heading back onto an airplane!). Where does a girl begin? I felt like I was on an episode from the Food Network!

The tray is full, and I will be soon

The family style dining is great, you can spread out on the table, spin a yarn with your friendly Texan neighbors (this isn’t uptight California dining!), the kids can run around and be loud (and so could I), it’s not just dinner, it’s an adventure!

We summarily devoured all that we could eat (yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, Lori had leftovers), the food was far beyond expectation, and my yelp score would definitely be 5 Stars!!


Don’t Mess with Texas! Especially their brisket!

- Nancy

Old Sac and Pink Slime

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 20, 2012 at 8:00 PM

A sample of the some of the things to do in this area of Sacramento


A couple of weekends ago I attended the California CattleWomen's Spring Meeting that was held at the Embassy Suites on the edge of Old Sacramento. I looked forward to a weekend out of town, however, I either had a cold or really bad allergies and took naps some of the free time we had when we were not in meetings. I was also recovering from a surgical procedure that I had on one of my big toes and could not wear shoes or walk long distances, so I was not able to venture very far from the hotel.  


The Embassy Suites in Old Sacramento

I love staying at Embassy Suites, especially when kids are involved. The rooms are very spacious and the kids can stay in one room, parents in the other. I was sharing the room with my friends Kim and Melinda, so it was nice to have all of the extra space and the living room area with a couch and chairs where we could sit and visit. Nearly all of the Embassy Suites that I have stayed at have been very clean and well decorated. They also have complimentary cocktail receptions every night with some receptions being better than others. The Sacramento River runs right by the Embassy Suites and there is a riverwalk along the river. When standing in front of the hotel you can see the State Capitol just blocks away.


The Sacramento River runs along side the Embassy Suites

The California State Capital can be seen from the front of the Embassy Suites


One of the speakers at the California CattleWomen's meeting was an expert in certified meat products and the co-owner of a family owned broadline food service distribution company. His primary focus was to teach us about cuts of beef and he provided a demonstration on the difference between USDA Beef Quality Grades. The demonstration turned out to be quite tasty as we got to taste the difference between steaks that were choice and select grades. He had the steaks prepared and cut up into pieces in the hotel's restaurant.


Since we had an expert at our disposal, someone asked the question to the answer everyone wanted to know, "What exactly is the pink slime we have been hearing so much about from the media?" The expert told us that "pink slime" aka Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) is lean meat that has been separated from fat using a process similar to the process used to separate milk from heavy cream. Ammonia hydroxide, a natural occurring compound is used in the process. The ammonia hydroxide is a microbial inhibitor, which is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans. It makes the meat safer and is used in the processing or production of many other food products such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, breakfast cereals, eggs, fish, sports drinks, beer, and other meats. Hmmm, I think the media forgot to tell us that. By the way, the fat that is separated from the LFTB goes on to make soaps, cosmetics and other beef by products. So, enough about that.


Kitty corner from the Embassy Suites is a Joe's Crab Shack. Kim, Melinda, and I had never been to a Joe's Crab Shack before and made plans to go. The guy that checked us in at the hotel told us to get there before 7:00 because later than that the wait is 2 hours or more. We got to Joe's at about 6:15 and at that time there was a 1 hour, 20 minute wait. No worries. They take your cell phone number and call you when your table is ready, so you can hang out in Old Sac until your table is ready. Joe's Crab Shack is a fun restaurant. It's loud, lots of parties going on, and nearly every 30 minutes the servers break into dance. Some of the fun loving customers get up and dance with them--we weren't some of those customers. Joe's has an exciting drink called a Shark Attack made of Barcardi Limon, Skyy Vodka, Blue Curacao and sour mix. There is a vial of grenadine "blood" the server pours into the drink when the drink is served along with bells being rung and the servers shouting about a shark attack.  The popular foods served at Joe's are steam pots and buckets of crab. We enjoyed our dinner at Joe's.



Joe's Crab Shack in Old Sacramento


Our other dinner during the weekend in Old Sac was at the Embassy Suites. During the cocktail reception I ordered an onion soup. The soup was served in an hollowed out onion that was sitting on top of rock salt. It was really quite tasty. We also ordered prime rib French dip sandwiches that we took to our room.  The bread on the sandwiches got a bit mushy in the to go boxes, so we would recommend eating them in the restaurant.


The onion soup at the Embassy Suites is served in a hollowed out onion


Well it was nice to get away for the weekend and get that pink slime mystery cleared up. I hope to get back to Old Sac again soon since I didn't get out to see all of the sights during this trip.



New York's Knickerbocker Bar & Grill

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on January 25, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Don't be fooled by outside of Knickerbockers in Greenwich Village, the food and decor is not like T.G.I. Friday's inside

Last October I attended a conference in Jersey City, New Jersey and right across the Hudson River from my hotel was my favorite city, New York. My sister Susie happened to be right across the river too, but we never did meet up.

The conference organizers coordinated a group of us to go to dinner together at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York one night. To get to the restaurant we took a ten minute PATH train ride from Jersey City to Greenwich Village. From the PATH train station we had to walk a few blocks (city blocks) to the restaurant. We were so focused on staying together, finding the restaurant, and getting to the restaurant on time that we really did not look at our surroundings. After dinner we were able to walk at a more leisurely pace back to the train station and although it was dark and drizzling, we really enjoyed the sights. At one cross street we looked down the street and saw the arch at Washington Square Park. We walked to the park, took some photos, and continued on our walk back to the train station. As we walked we saw small upscale restaurants in the basements of some of the buildings we passed by (check out the Lion restaurant). Limos and town cars lined the streets waiting for their passengers dining in these restaurants. Many of the buildings are over 100 years old and have ornate hand railings on the staircases leading up to the buildings. Some of the apartments had beautiful glowing chandeliers that we could see through the windows. There were window boxes with flowers on other buildings. I would sure like to go back during the daylight to see this charming neighborhood and check out some of the restuarants.

The arch in Washington Square

When we arrived at Knickerbocker's I thought we had been misguided and would be dining at a T.G.I. Friday's type of restaurant. The outside of the restaurant was quite deceiving as the inside of the restaurant has the look of a classic New York eatery with an old school bar, piano, and caricatures by the legendary caricaturist Al Hirshfield.

Caricatures by the legendary caricaturist Al Hirshfield.

Knickerbocker's bar

The group that I went to dinner with really enjoyed Knickerbocker Bar & Grill. A couple of the guys started off with the French onion soup that was served in the traditional soup crock with melted cheese over the top of the soup and a slice of bread. It looked great and the guys that ordered it said it was great. I had some of the best pasta ever. It was housemade pasta with linguine, shrimp, fresh chili, garlic, breadcrumbs and just incredibly good. Others had the filet mignon and the giant T-bone steak. One guy had a gianormous burger. For dessert I had the key lime pie that was also incredibly good.

My incredibly good linguini and shrimp at Knickerbocker Bar & Grill

The filet mignon

Knickerbocker's famous T-Bone steak

Key lime pie

I had always heard that New Yorkers eat late. As we were leaving the restaurant around 9:00 pm there were several groups of people waiting to get seated--this was not the case when we arrived at 7:00 pm. In my hometown the restaurants are starting to close at 9:00 pm on a Tuesday night. 

I love New York.


EL Sacromonte - A Bit of Guadalajara in Livermore

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on January 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The decor at El Sacromonte, Livermore's newest restaurant was inspired by its namesake in Guadalajara, Mexico

After months of renovations, Livermore has a new upscale gourmet Mexican restaurant on First Street. The co-owner of the new restaurant, Juan Delgadillo runs a string of successful restaurants in Mexico. El Sacromonte in Guadalajara, Mexico is the restaurant from which the new Livermore restaurant takes its name, menu, and inspiration.

My sister Nancy, daughter Laina, and I had lunch at El Sacromonte a couple of weeks ago. We enjoyed the eclectic decor that includes whimsical paintings and figurines, nontraditional lighting, and artifacts from Mexico. The tables, chairs, and a large wine rack are all made of dark hardwood. Three clocks above the bar (another full bar in Livermore folks!) keep the guests on track with the time in Guadalajara, Livermore, and New York. The dining room is fairly large and can accommodate large groups for lunch or dinner. 

Whimsical paintings and . . . . . .

. . . . . whimsical figurines

A few of the artifacts from Mexico

The large dining room can accommodate large groups

Three clocks keep the guests on track with the time in Guadalajara, Livermore, and New York

Nontraditional lighting provides light in the dining room

Instead of the tortilla chips we are accustomed to in Mexican restaurants here in California, a basket of warm bread was brought to our table shortly after being seated. The food we were served was all very well presented and well-seasoned. Most of the food was not spicy hot, and the food that was spicy was not over the top. My favorite was the rib eye tacos, which was a sliced rib eye steak served with small corn tortillas, salsa, guacamole, cilantro, and chopped onion. To finish off our lunch we tried the Natilla Mexicana, which is a Mexican version of crème brulee. It was served warm, which is how crème brulee can be served. However, it was a bit watery--but it tasted very good. We had coffee with dessert and the coffee was very good as well. Two things I would have liked to have seen different was instead of serving the cream for coffee in the individual plastic Mini Moo containers, the cream would have been better presented in a small creamer. The Mini Moos remind me of dining at IHOP. Also, the too cold butter pats came in the gold individually wrapped papers and should be whipped and served in a glass container.

The service the day we were there was spotty. There were only two other tables occupied in the restaurant and the servers appeared to be confused as to whom was responsible for our table. After waiting way too long, we had to flag someone down to order and to get our check.

Diners are served warm bread

Aztec Tortilla Soup - Traditional tortilla soup served with fried tortilla strips, panela cheese, avocado and pasilla chiles

La Chava Shrimp - Large shrimp prepared in a 12 dry-chile sauce with a touch of garlic

Comala Stuffed Avocado - Half avocado stuffed with hearts of palm and shrimp, served with black pepper and hard-boiled egg vinaigrette

Rib Eye Tacos - Rib eye fajitas served in a bed of tortilla accompanied with cilantro, guacamole and onion

Natilla Mexicana - A Mexican version of crème brulee

Overall, we enjoyed our experience and the food at the El Sacromonte and I would definitely go back. However, I hope the rest of Livermore is ready for an upscale gourmet Mexican restaurant.

Buena comida, buena carne, buen Dios, vamos a comer!


Simple and Delicious Bacon Date Tapas

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 16, 2011 at 3:25 AM

Bacon Date Tapas, easy to make and delicious to eat

My husband Troy and I had the opportunity to stay at the historic Casa Munras hotel in Monterey, California. The Estéban restaurant just off of the hotel’s lobby offers Mediterranean tapas and Spanish inspired cuisine. During the weekend we were there, the Sunday special in the bar was tapas. My favorite tapa was a date stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. Knowing this would be a great appetizer to take to parties, I searched the Internet for the recipe. With only three ingredients, it is very simple to make.

The three ingredients: dates, blue cheese, and bacon

Last weekend one of our cookbook testers, Pat Byrne, had a gingerbread house making party, which these tapas were just perfect for. And, they were a hit! I thought our readers would enjoy them as much as I do. They are the perfect appetizer--simple and delicious!

Hey, maybe Pat will share her gingerbread recipe with us!?

The gingerbread house making party was a perfect event for the tapas

One of the gingerbread houses at the party

Bacon Date Tapas  -  Makes 24, prep time 30 minutes, bake time 30 - 40 minutes


1 pound bacon, medium thick slices work best

24 dates, fancy Medjools work well

8 ounces of blue cheese (I prefer Point Reyes Blue Cheese)

24 toothpicks


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan with non-stick foil. Split the dates open, remove the pit. Fill the vacancy with blue cheese. Cut the strips of bacon in half and wrap the filled date in the half slice of bacon, then secure it with a toothpick. Place on cookie sheet/jelly roll pan. Put on a higher rack in the oven—the bottoms tend to burn when on a lower rack. Check after 20 minutes, if needed, turn them. Continue checking until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel. These may be served at room temperature.

Removing the pit from the dates

The dates filled with blue cheese

The stuffed and bacon wrapped dates ready for the oven

The tapas are almost done cooking!



"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon."  ~Doug Larson


The Underdog - Livermore Wine Country's Hidden Gem

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 8, 2011 at 9:30 AM

As Livermore's downtown continues to grow with new wine bars, pubs, and restaurants, one of the best is hidden out in Livermore's wine country

The first few miles of Tesla Road in Livermore is blanketed with vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms. Hidden among them is the Underdog Wine Bar, which is one of my favorite places to go to unwind with friends and family or have a light leisurely lunch. The Underdog Wine Bar is adjacent to Concannon Vineyard's tasting room.

The decor at the Underdog is modern and tasteful

The wine distribution system keeps the wine at the optimal temperature

The decor in the Underdog is tasteful, modern, and leaves you with asking, "Is this really Livermore?!?" The decorator has also done a great job of incorporating grapes and vines into the decor.  One of the Underdog's assets is the outdoor patio that looks out on the Livermore hills, vineyards, and Concannon's grape arbor. The patio has heaters, so you can sit out there in all seasons and enjoy the view. There are tables, chairs, and couches for seating that can accommodate a fairly large group of people.

With views of the vineyards and Livermore Hills, the patio is one of the Underdog's assets

The wine can be ordered by glass, flight, or bottle. I usually order a flight which is three glasses on a wooden stand, with a fairly substantial pour. Ordering the flight gives me an opportunity to try a variety of wine. 

A flight of wine at the Underdog

The small plates served at the Underdog are incredible and designed by gourmet chef Barbara Llewellyn. The menu changes throughout the year and the items removed are replaced with seasonal foods. Currently on the menu is a braised short rib dish with seasonal vegetables that is out of this world. On a recent night when my sisters and I were at the Underdog, we could smell the short ribs cooking and it was a dizzying experience for the Calhoun sisters, especially since we were so hungry when we arrived. One small plate of the braised short ribs led to another . . . .

Homemade potato chips

Seasonal flat bread with walnuts, prosciuto, cheese, and grapes

There is an ahi tuna tartar tower that is always on the menu and is made with cucumber, avocado, radish, wasabi aioli, and coriander oil served with lightly salted wonton chips. Most of the people that I've been to Underdog with have ordered it and loved it (I don't do raw fish).  The desserts are not to be missed. One of the static menu items and always the best is the valrhona extra noir chocolate tart that is served with coffee bean caramel and sprinkled with grey salt. During the spring we took our cousin Becky and her daughter Kelsie to the Underdog for wine and dessert. My teen daughters and Kelsie thoroughly enjoyed the desserts especially the buttery strawberry shortcake that was on the menu at that time.

Valrhona extra noir chocolate tart with coffee bean caramel and grey salt

The seasonal straberry shortcake is made with a buttery pastry

The next time you're looking for a great place to spend some time enjoying a glass of wine, good conversation, and good eats, venture out to Livermore wine country's gem. You will be happy you did.  ~merry~

If all be true that I do think, There are five reasons we should drink:  Good wine— a friend— or being dry—Or lest we should be by and by—Or any other reason why.

~Henry Aldrich (1647–1710)

Pub Crawling with the Brew Angels to the North Bay

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 1, 2011 at 7:35 AM

My husband, Troy, and I were able to attend the Brew Angel’s 63rd Annual Pub Crawl. The crawl was well attended, with 31 people boarding the bus for our trek to Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Third Street Ale Works and finally, Bear Republic. The back of the bus is reserved for the homebrews that members brought to share, very popular and tasty. It was a bright sunny day with beautiful views as we drove across Highway 12 from Lodi to the North Bay. This bus was equipped with a restroom, which we were discouraged to use for obvious reasons and “hold on” if we did!

Moylan's Brewery and Restaurant in Novato

Our first stop was Moylan's Brewery and Restaurant in Novato. The bartender lined up a plethora of brews for us to taste: Hopsicle Triple Hoppy IPA , Celts Golden Ale, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Ryan O’Sullivan’s Imperial Stout, Irish Style Red, Orange and Black, White Christmas Spiced White Winter Lager. I would say my favorite was the Orange and Black, a special brew commemorating the San Francisco Giants World Series win. I first bought this beer in a bottle – a stout with hints of orange. All the beers were delicious and well balanced. Moylan’s has won many awards, both nationally and internationally. This was voted as our favorite brewery so far!

Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma

Up the road in Petaluma, we stopped at the Lagunitas Brewing Company.  A trip to the TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary is something to experience. A brewery that has always pushed the envelope, their facility is so very unique and artistically eclectic. Brian, our Lagunitas historian and tasting guide, shared much of their history and the story behind some of their beer names.

One such story would be the release of a brew to commemorate the Undercover Sting in their early days. They are in the process of a multimillion dollar expansion. We had the opportunity to taste Hop Stoopid, Pils – Czech Style Pilsner, Maixmus and a few others. Most of their beers I would consider “big beers” with high alcohol content, very well hopped.

Loved this stop! You may want to check out the Beer Circus in May. There was a great write up in The Celebrator Beer News about this now annual event, check it out!

Third Street Aleworks

Next stop was the Third Street AleWorks in Santa Rosa. This being our lunch stop, we were in need of food. The almonds and jerky I brought along were not holding up to the big beers! They had an extensive beer list, with lists posted on the wall, including alcohol content. We were offered a limited lunch menu with plenty of choices. Most popular at our table was the fish and chips.

At our table there were also grilled tri tip steak salad ,

and the Italian Pizza.

I ordered the Bird on Third - grilled chicken breast with bacon, avocado, pepper jack cheese served on a toasted French roll.

What do I like best about pub food? French fries! They were cooked to perfection, with the skins on. Some of the beers we tasted were: Annadel Pale Ale, Bodega Head IPA, Stonely Oatmeal Stout, Cascadian Dark Ale and American Wheat Ale. The service was remarkably smooth for a large group. Some people took the opportunity to run over to Russian River Brewing and taste some of their famous Pliney the Elder.

Bear Republic Brewing Company and Restaurant

Our final stop was Bear Republic Brewing Company and Restaurant in Healdsburg. Known for their Racer 5 we tasted that along with Big Bear, Red Rocket, Peter Brown Tribute Ale. Brian, a brewing assistant, gave us a short tour and took us over to the Barrel Room. The Barrel Room was set up for a dinner that evening. Bear Republic has won many awards, is home of the Best IPA in the US and has expanded their brewing facility to Cloverdale. The beer was tasty, well hopped. You could tell the day was wearing on us by this stop and it was time to load up the bus. As we were leaving Bear Republic, the dinner crowd was filtering in.

The bus ride back to Lodi was quieter than the ride over. There was still beer in the back for those that wanted it. As we pulled into the Flying J lot at the intersection of I-5 and Hwy 12, designated drivers met the bus. All headed home, looking forward to next year’s 64th annual Brew Angel’s Pub Crawl.


"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer."

- Abraham Lincoln

On the Road to "Anything Goes"

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 19, 2011 at 3:20 PM

An Anything Goes billboard on the corner of Broadway and 47th Street

Last month my husband Troy and I made a quick trip to New York City. Before leaving on the trip we made a list of everything we wanted to see in the city. First on the list was  a Broadway production! The thought of standing in line with hundreds to get a half price ticket at TKTS had no appeal, so when Travel Zoo sent out an email with discounts to Broadway productions, I hopped on it. This helped narrow our choices. Troy and I chose Anything Goes, a revival of the 1934 musical, at the newly remodeled Stephen Sondheim Theater. When looking at the reviews on didhelikeit.com to make a choice, Anything Goes had rave reviews.

The newly remodeled Stephen Sondheim Theater

We had tickets for the Sunday matinee and naturally we had to get a meal before seeing the show. While we were on our way to the theater the first restaurant we came upon was Heartland Brewery . . . which was PERFECT for us craft beer lovers! First off we ordered the beer sampler that included one of the specialty brews and six other samples. We started with the Indian River Light which was described as having the flavor of orange blossoms with coriander to enhance the crisp finish. It was the best of all. This was followed by Cornhusker Lager and a Harvest Wheat. Red Rooster Ale followed, this one tasted really good with French fries. The IPA  was flavorful, but it really couldn't compare to the California IPAs. Farmer John's Oatmeal Stout has won various medals at the Great American Beer Festival - this was a bit light for my liking. Finally, the specialty brew that day was the Smiling Pumpkin Ale, which was a lightly spiced brew. One of their "beer cocktails" was Stumpkin, a blend of the stout and pumpkin brews. The stout was so light it could be over powered by the pumpkin.

The Heartland Brewery in New York City

The beer sampler at Heartland Brewery

Along with the beer and food, Heartland also served a variety of cocktails, beer cocktails and wine. On the wine list was an Axis, 2007 Lodi Zinfandel for $36. The menu was a typical pub menu, with some variations. We chose the mini bison burgers with BBQ sauce and sliced tomato, it was juicy and flavorful. The French fries had skins on, were well done, and sprinkled with sea salt - just like I like them! Finally I had a chop salad with capers, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, kalamata olives, red onions, grape tomatoes, celery and croutons. It was too heavily dressed for me and the vegetables a bit wilted. Heartland has several locations throughout Manhattan.

Heartland Brewery's mini bison burgers

The chop salad at Heartland Brewery

When we arrived at the theater, the line to go in had already formed and people were all ready entering to see Anything Goes. Each doorway had an usher dressed as a sailor. The sets for the musical are described as "deco." I cannot say enough about this production. Every detail left a favorable and lasting impression. The music, the dancing, the costumes, the sets, the performers – all made for a memorable theate rexperience.


It was a great first day in New York City!


Jersey City - A Great Place to Stay

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 31, 2011 at 11:50 PM

This month has been just crazy. I've traveled over 12,500 miles and lucky for me, I do love to travel. During my travels I attended a conference in Jersey City, New Jersey.  The conference was held in a hotel in the Newport area of Jersey City, which is just across the Hudson River from New York City. With all of the tasteless reality shows featuring residents of New Jersey these days, I was wondering what I was getting myself into. Fortunately, I never ran into anyone that even resembled Snooki or The Situation, one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, or even anyone that looked Jerseylicious.

The yacht harbor in the Newport area of Jersey City, New Jersey

The view of New York from one of the walking paths in the Newport area

The Newport area of Jersey City was very nice. The conference was held at the Westin, which was one of the nicest hotels I have stayed at in a few years. The beds and linens in the rooms were awesome. They have gone above and beyond to provide you with a great stay by providing high quality soaps, shampoos, lotions in the sleeping rooms, heated towels and disposable ear buds in the workout room (the workout equipment all have individual TVs), and you can help yourself to apples in lobby. The food was incredible at the restaurants in the hotel and believe it or not, even the food served at the conference was outstanding. It also appears that the hotel staff has gone through extensive training to provide outstanding customer service, which I really appreciated.

Night time view of New York City from my room at the Jersey City Westin

Vegetable Rolls at the Fire & Oak Restaurant in the Westin

There are several restaurants in the area surrounding the Westin. One night during the conference we had an evening event at Michael Anthony's restaurant, which is situated on the Hudson River with a great view of New York. The event included a cocktail reception with passed appetizers and a sit down dinner. While the location of this restuarant is outstanding, I kept expecting chef Gordon Ramsey to appear for a Kitchen Nightmares makeover saying something such as, "What the f**k are you serving here? This food is f**king terrible. They quit serving this s**t in the 80's." He would have also had a field day with the servers serving the dinner as well. Given the great views of New York and the river, I would actually give the restaurant another try. I have found that even some of the best restaurants bomb when catering a large event.

Michael Anthony's restaurant on the Hudson River offers an outstanding view of New York City

The bar at Michael Anthony's

Another restaurant I tried in the area was Azucar Cuban Cuisine, a restaurant right across the street from the Westin. I really enjoyed the food, music and ambience at Azucar. One of the specialties at this restaurant is their Cuban sandwich, which is notorious for beating Bobby Flay in a throwdown. For a few weeks during October I was on a shrimp kick, so instead of the Cuban sandwich I tried a shrimp dish, Camarones a la Plancha, which were grilled shrimp seasoned with lime, fresh herbs and black pepper. The shrimp were great. My coworker, Rena, tried the grilled chicken breast, Bistec de Pollo al Grill, which was a lime juice marinated grilled chicken breast covered with onions and peppers. She said it was very tender and tasted great.

Azucar Cuban Cuisine restaurant

The Camarones a la Plancha, grilled shrimp seasoned with lime, fresh herbs and black pepper

Bistec de Pollo al Grill, lime juice marinated grilled chicken breast smothered in onions and peppers

I really enjoyed my visit to Jersey City.  Besides the Westin, there are other hotels in the area, such as a DoubleTree and a Courtyard Marriott. There is a Path train station about a block away from the Westin.  For $3 we took a seven minute train ride into Greenwich Village for dinner one night. Rena took the Path train into New York a few times and said she was able to easily walk to some of the attractions she wanted to see or transfer to the subway, which took her to other attractions.

I would definitely stay in this area again. I'll have to catch Snooki on some other trip.


Liberty Enlightening The World

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 22, 2011 at 8:35 AM

Did you know that Liberty Enlightening the World was originally the name of the Statue of Liberty? On our recent trip to NYC, Troy and I secured some of the last tickets to walk to the crown of Lady Liberty, prior to the next remodel.

When you're 125 years old, there is a good chance you too could use a facelift! If visiting NYC, I would highly recommend this trip. Easily accessible via the subway, it makes for a full day when you also visit Ellis Island. Tip, do not take a pocket knife.Troy had to "secure" his knife in the bushes, at the suggestion of the security screeners.


After walking to the top, all 354 steps, we were ready to rest our legs. Just happened that there was a tour about to start. The U.S. National Park Service ranger, Dave Stack, imparted so much information with passion and beautiful back drops - the Manhattan and New Jersey shorelines, and the Statue of Liberty.

Dave shared some of the symbolism of the Statue. Her foot is not flat, but preparing to take a step, always moving forward. The shackles at her feet broken, freedom. The crown, always lit for enlightening. Did you know there are 250 watt bulbs to light that crown? Next stop was Ellis Island. This was a self guided tour. I loved reading the stories of people's reaction when they first viewed the statue as they entered the United States.

Needless to say, after our tours we were ready for some dinner and beverages. We caught the subway to Houston, just a few blocks from Bleecker (the street where the apartment is that were staying at). As we walked down Houston, we passed Gilda's Club www.gildasclubnyc.org/ - which supports anyone with cancer, the street also had a sign, "Gilda Radner Way." She was such a GREAT entertainer! So I diverge...


We headed to John's of Bleecker Street, Johnsbrickovenpizza.com. John's was recommended by Susie Ackerman, one of our recipe testers, and written up in United Airlines Hemisphere magazine. I had to eat John's New York pizza!

We had passed by John's at 9:00 on a Saturday night and again 6:00 on Sunday night, both nights had lines out the door. Tuesday at 5:00, we were seated immediately. John's was decorated in quite an eclectic way. The wooden booths had years of carvings on them. Actors and sports celebrities had autographed photos throughout the restaurant. I was seated under a picture of the 1961 Yankees. Troy selected the roasted tomato (with both red and yellow tomatoes), sliced meatball, and black olive pizza.

We accompanied that with a house salad - iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, pickled beets, onions dressed with a light vinaigrette dressing.

Beverage of choice was Yuengling Lager, a darker lager brewed in Pennsylvania www.yuengling.com/. It was great a NYC Greenwich Village neighborhood experience!

~ Susie

Oklahoma's Original Fried Pies

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 15, 2011 at 9:50 AM

The Original Fried Pies sign in Davis, Oklahoma

Sometimes when I visit my sister in Texas we take trips up to Oklahoma.  We have visited the Arbuckle Wilderness drive through animal park and Turner Falls Park, both in Davis, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City where we have toured the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.  We always make a point to stop at Original Fried Pies in Davis, Oklahoma. It is in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains.


The Original Pies Shop pamphlet says the fried pies were originally made for ranch hands in the fields in 1893.  They have other locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, but the Davis, Oklahoma location off Interstate 35 is the original location.


The Original Fried Pie Shop's menu

The generous sized hand held fried pies come in many flavors.  The fruit fillings are apricot, apple, peach,cherry, pineapple and blackberry.  You can also get the fruit pies sugar free. The cream pie fillings are coconut, chocolate, lemon and vanilla.  They also have pecan, which is one of my mom’s favorites (along with the blackberry). They have breakfast pies – sausage, cheese and egg and bacon, cheese and egg.  For lunch and dinner you could try chicken and vegetable, beef and vegetable, broccoli and chicken, spinach and mushroom, polish sausage and potato in a light cheesesauce, Tex-Mex or pizza style.


Fried pie crust and fillings

Assembling the pies

Assembled pies

Cherry fried pie

My husband thoroughly enjoyed the sausage, cheese and egg.  My favorite is cherry.  The crust is light and flaky.  My great nephew Karson really liked his cherry pie.  He had his almost eaten before I sat down with mine. 

Karson loooved his pie!

We always eat one there and take one or two with us to eat later.

If you like them hot, it only takes a few minutes for them to make one in your choice of flavor.

My sister goes up to the animal park quite often and she always has to stop at Original Fried Pies. If you are ever in the area, take a break and stop and get a fried pie.



An Enjoyable Meal at Cafe Espanol in Greenwich Village

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 15, 2011 at 2:05 AM

Cafe Espanol in Greenwich Village

Last Saturday, my husband Troy and I traveled to New York City for a short visit . . . unfortunately, it was way too short!

Our arrival into Manhattan's Greenwich Village was via one of those fast, wild New York cab rides.  We were dropped at the apartment we rented for our stay on Bleecker Street, near New York University.

A friend had highly recommended that we go to John's Pizza while we were in New York. In addition to our friends recommendation, on the flight in, there was a short blurb in United's Hemisphere magazine on John's being one of the best NYC pizza places - but "no slices!" This is where we wanted to go for dinner, but when we flew by in the cab, we saw the line of people waiting to eat there was way out the door.

After getting settled in the apartment, we had decided the line was too long at John's and we really wanted a beer and food, NOW! Luckily, Bleecker Street is full of restaurants. Just on our block there are at least six restaurants! We decided to walk down the street a bit and came upon a Spanish restaurant, Cafe Espanol, which is a charming restaurant. It looked small from the outside - narrow and deep. They had several rooms for dining, a front patio and a garden. We ate out on the front patio, so entertaining!

There was an extensive menu, with at least 50 tapas and entrees. These included meat, poultry, fish, seafood and many lobster dishes. Seeing how it was late, Troy and I didn't want a heavy meal. So many choices! First, BEER! Though we should have gotten sangria, we quenched our thirst with Negra Modelo.

Our Negra Modelo along with a olive oil, garlic, olive, and pimento dipping sauce

The meal started with fresh bread, served with a dipping sauce of olive oil, garlic, olives, and pimentos. I have got to try to make this at home! Next we ordered the avocado salad, which was full of Haas avocados, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes along with a flavorful, creamy vinaigrette.  Next Troy ordered a tapa, Lomo de cedro con champinones, pork loin with sautéed mushrooms and wine. This was delicious! We also ordered some sautéed string beans.


The avocado salad at Cafe Espanol

Lomo de cedro con champinones tapa, pork loin with sautéed mushrooms and wine

Sautéed green beans

The service was fantastic--attentive but not overbearing. All of our servers were men that all seemed to love their job. They even offered to take our picture! Should you happen to be in this neighborhood, Troy and I would recommend this restaurant, not only for the food but the atmosphere. As we sat on the patio, we watched the people and the traffic . . . driving by was a Bentley, a Rolls Royce, and several hundred taxis.  Hello New York!


A Trip to Louisiana, by way of Berkeley?!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 6, 2011 at 8:35 AM

We’re fixin’ to take ya’ll on a trip to the South by way of Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley… We recently took our friend Deana, a native Louisiana gal, on her first trip to Berkeley. Telegraph Avenue is one of my favorite spots to take tourists to give them a unique view of the hippy mecca, a time warp back to the 60’s (I did end up buying a couple of leather bracelets from a street vendor, really!!). But the main reason for this trip was get Deana out of the house where the kids were getting ready for their surprise 30th anniversary party. So her daughters and I found a restaurant online that touted southern hospitality and Louisiana cuisine, Angeline’s Kitchen, the perfect diversion - food from home! The Blume family knows southern hospitality, and fortunately, we have often been the recipients … red beans and rice, huge pots of gumbo with a slooooooow cooked roux, shrimp casseroles, home made root beer, another story to be told in a future blog.

So we covertly headed to Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley with an appetite and found Angeline’s, a small unassuming storefront, but once you step inside, it’s southern comfort all the way.

The aromas from the kitchen, decorations on the walls, the bar and open kitchen make you feel right at home. It was a tough call when the menu came, we wanted to try everything, and we almost did! Prices were very reasonable, and the portions looked plentiful as the plates were passing our table by. There were only three of us but we did our best to eat our way across Louisiana, you would have thought we were ordering for a small army.

Deana recommended that we start off with the Hush Puppies, a traditional cornmeal fritter with honey butter. Those puppies were served hot and full of flavors from the South, herbs, spices and a wee bit of a kick, which won Deana over from the start, she was home!

Hush Puppies with a flavorful kick

Our traveling partner Rose chose the Classic Muffuletta, overflowing with salami, mortadella, provolone, and olive salad, taking us on a flavor trip right back to New Orleans. The Baked Mac & Cheese with a crunchy parmesan crust was calling her name, so we all got a taste of some home cookin’, just like mamas.


Classic Muffuletta, Potato Salad and Mac & Cheese

The Southern belle ordered a NOLA classic, the Shrimp Po’ Boy dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle, Creole mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Fresh crunchy shrimp was spilling out and the kick of the mustard and hot sauce was LA all the way. Their sandwiches come with a side of Potato Salad, red potatoes with Creole dressing and green onions, the dressing gave it a very flavorful kick. And for just $2.50 you can substitute your side with Angeline’s Gumbo full of okra, andouille, tasso ham, and shrimp, so instead of having to choose one or the other, we got both. We were beginning to fill up!


Straight from the South Gumbo and Shrimp Po' Boy

I ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, I was so excited with the menu I didn’t realize it was boneless breast of chicken, not whole pieces, my only disappointment, but it had a crusty crunch on the outside and was moist and delicious on the inside, great flavors. The chicken came with ginger-vanilla sweet potato mash, tasso ham cream gravy and Blue Lake green beans. The sweet potato mash was absolutely divine, that alone was worth the drive to Berkeley! Sweet, creamy and full of flavor, it could be a meal in itself, close to sweet potato pie delicious.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and heavenly Sweet Potato Mash

The Blume family tells me that it’s very hard to find a hot, fresh Beignet outside of New Orleans, well we hit the jackpot at Angeline’s, they were cooked to order, hot and absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious with a mountain of powdered sugar sprinkled on top. I didn’t know that you’re supposed to eat beignets with your hands, not a fork, so I got a teasing from Deana, me the hillbilly that usually doesn’t have the best of manners. And you’re supposed to have powdered sugar battles at the end of the meal, so don’t wear black!

Fried to order Beignets with just a little powdered sugar!

We met Angeline’s Chef, Brandon Dubea, who hales from Louisiana himself, Baton Rouge, where he spent many an hour growing up in his grandpa’s Cajun grocery store, and helping out with crawfish boils. I think he has hot sauce running through his veins, he definitely made his grandpa proud with this meal.

Direct from Baton Rouge, Chef Brandon Dubea

If it wasn’t for the 3 cups of coffee we drank (goooood coffee) we definitely would have eaten ourselves into a Cajun coma! It was a good thing we were planning to introduce Deana to the Telegraph neighborhood where we could walk off lunch browsing the street vendors, and yes, there was a tie-dye t-shirt vendor peddling his wares on the corner.


We will definitely be heading back to Angeline’s Kitchen, it wasn’t just a meal, it was a gastronomic adventure! A few items I plan on trying next round are the Fried Catfish, Voo Doo Shrimp, Crawfish Etouffee, Grilled Boudin, Abita Pure Can Root Beer, and we will definitely finish up with another round of beignets, eaten without a fork. Our Southern belle Deana gives Angeline’s a thumbs up!

Laisser les bons temps rouler!

Nancy, Deana & Rose

A Day at Half Moon Bay

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Just about an hour drive from my house is Half Moon Bay, which is a small farming community next to the Pacific Ocean. On Thursday, my sister Nancy and I took my girls there for the day. Shortly after arriving in Half Moon Bay, my youngest daughter let us know she needed to be home early because she was going to an event that night and her friends were all meeting at our house at 4:30 pm to get ready. So, what had started out as a leisurely day in Half Moon Bay, now became the "let's see and do everything we can in a few hours day."

Our first stop in Half Moon Bay was at Jeff Clark Maverick's Surf Shop. Jeff Clark was one of the founders of the world famous Maverick's surf contest and is a world class surfboard shaper. Nancy ended up buying a surfboard. OK, so it wasn't a full sized surf board-- it was a wooden postcard shaped like a surfboard.

Jeff Clark Maverick's Surf Shop

Our next stop was the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for lunch. Although it was cold and foggy, we opted to sit outside to eat. Nancy and I shared one of the Maverick's beer samplers. We really liked the Devil's Slide Summer Ale, which was served with lemon. As for the food, we started off with the artichoke hearts that are battered with an amber ale batter. A couple of us had cups of the clam chowder, which was outstanding. The consistency was just right and the flavor was great. The soups are made daily from scratch. Nancy had Avô's Portuguese Fisherman's Stew, which was also outstanding. The fisherman's stew is a mix of fresh fish, shellfish, fennel and linguica in a garlic broth with cilantro. If you click here, you can get the recipe. My daughters both had the pear salad, which is made with radicchio, spring mix, endive, candied walnuts and pecans, roasted pear, dried cranberries and bleu cheese with raspberry vinaigrette. I had the crab louie. Reminder to myself: If it's not crab season, don't order the crab louie.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Maverick's Beer sampler

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company's clam chowder

Avô's Portuguese Fisherman's Stew - Click here for the recipe

Right across the street from the Monterey Bay Brewing Company is Barbara's Fish Trap, which is our parent's favorite restaurant in Half Moon Bay. We ran into to some other people that day that also said Barbara's Fish Trap is their favorite restaurant in the area. Barbara's is a four star restaurant on Yelp and Half Moon Bay Brewing is only 3.5 stars. Might be worth checking out.

Barbara's Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay

Our next stop was Main Street in the historic downtown Half Moon Bay. Cuhna's Country Grocery was one of the places we really wanted to visit on Main Street. At Cuhna's we were pleased to find a selection of Portuguese foods, which included a few types of linguica and pies from a Portuguese bakery. The Portuguese offerings in our hometown are pretty minimal.

Cuhna's Country Grocery

There are quite a few interesting stores and sights in the Historic Downtown area. At the southern end of Main Street is the Toque Blanche cooking store and next to it is the Moonside Bakery and Cafe. Had we not been on stringent schedule, we probably could have spent half of the day in the cooking store, which "sells professional quality cookware and tools to the serious home chef." It appears they do cooking demonstrations in the store and the staff is very knowledgeable about the tools and cookware that they sell. The bakery and cafe next door had quite a variety of sweets and an indoor dining area that was decorated in such a way that you would feel you were dining outside.

Toque Blance cooking store


Moonside Bakery and Cafe bakery goods

Moonside Bakery and Cafe dining area

There are a few boutique hotels in the historic downtown area. Each one looks very inviting. I would sure like to get back there to stay in one of them for a weekend.


Hotels in historic Half Moon Bay: San Benito House (left) and HMB Hotel (right)

Cottage Industries handcrafted furniture store

It's Italia restaurant front (left) and a window display a few doors down (left)

One of the murals in historic downtown Half Moon Bay

Historic home

Half Moon Bay's historic jail--I expected a Barney Fife character to step outside any minute


Not sure, but we think this is an art gallery

Part of a mosaic in the town square

While on Main Street we also visited the Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel store, which is actually still a feed store that in addition to livestock feed sells farm and ranch supplies, horse tack supplies, pets and pet supplies. They also sell chickens. They had an impressive variety of chicks available. One of the employees spent a few minutes with us showing us the color of eggs that each breed lays. The chicks they were selling would produce brown, pink, and blue eggs.

Chicks for sale at the Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel

Just blocks away from the historic downtown are public beaches. As I mentioned earlier, it was cold and foggy in Half Moon Bay on Thursday; however, since we were so close to the ocean, we really needed to at least take a walk on the beach.

Auntie Nancy on the beach with my daughters

The cliffs along the beach

When we drive to Half Moon Bay from the East Bay Area, we take Highway 92, which winds it's way down a mountain into Half Moon Bay and we pass several farms selling food, flowers, and plants. During the fall the farms sell pumpkins and during the winter you can cut your own Christmas tree. Naturally, we had to stop at a few of the farms on the way out of town.

Flowers, pumpkins, beans, sunflowers and other crops along Highway 92

Beets and Swiss chard

Cabbage and freshly cut zinnias

Honeycombs and pumpkins

Honey, pumpkin blossoms, and green onions

All-in-one gift store, flower stand, and veggie stand

As you can see, we were able to see a lot in a very short amount of time in Half Moon Bay. Some of the things we did not get to enjoy were the bike trails, watching surfers, cocktails at the pretentious Ritz-Carlton, and playing in the water. So, I guess I'm just going to have to go back for the weekend real soon.


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