Holm Family Cookbook

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Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

Copper on the Floor!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 8, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Moscow Mule at the Happy Hour Bar on Hebgen Lake, Montana

A few years ago Oprah Winfrey visited Yosemite National Park on her TV show. During that episode, Oprah and her friend Gayle King were drinking Moscow Mules at their campsite and she even brought some to her neighbors at the campsite next to hers. When she named the ingredients, ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice, the drink did not sound all that appealing to me.

Fast forward to this past summer while I was in Montana with my cousin Becky and she mentioned that some of her friends told her that the Happy Hour bar down the road had this drink called a Moscow mule that we needed to try. Soooo, naturally we did. Our friend Theresa joined us. We tried one. And then another . . . .


Moscow Mules are served in copper mugs. There is something about the oxidation of the copper that gives the drink a special flavor. At first drink you don't taste it, but after a while it's there. And, it's good.


At the Happy Hour bar on the shores of Hebgen Lake in West Yellowstone, Montana where we had our first Mules, the Moscow Mule is a very popular drink. Apparently, the copper mugs, which are fairly expensive, would be taken home as souvenirs by the guests of the Happy Hour. In an effort to prevent the loss of mugs, each time a Moscow Mule is served, the bartender yells, "Copper on the floor!" and all of the customers yell it with her. If someone sitting at the bar orders one, she yells, "Copper on the bar!" and again, all of the customers in the bar yell it too. Everyone knows who has the copper mugs and it's a lot of fun to yell, especially when you have had more than one Moscow Mule.


When I got home from Montana I decided to buy some copper mugs, which I found is a tricky thing to do. As I mentioned before, the copper mugs are fairly expensive. I started looking for them in thrift stores, but had no luck. I did, however, find an Arthur Court serving tray for $2.95 at one thrift store. There are a lot of places on-line where you can buy them, but you need to be careful. One nationally known chain sells "Moscow Mule glasses" that have a copper finish on the outside, but are stainless steel inside, which defeats the purpose of the copper mug. Others are aluminum with a copper finish. The mugs I ended up purchasing were from the Butte Copper Company. Unfortunately, I discovered when the mugs arrived that there is an antique finish on the inside. I do plan to see if I can remove it with steel wool.

The ingredients for Moscow Mules

I have seen recipes for Moscow Mules with freshly squeezed lime juice and I have had them made with a sweetened lime juice, such as Rose's. So, yesterday when my sisters and some of my cousins were over canning pickles, I did a taste test with them. Hands down the Moscow Mules with the freshly squeezed lime juice was the favorite. So here is the recipe I used:

Place ice cubes in the bottom of a copper mug, add:

3/4 shot of freshly squeezed lime juice (or sweetened lime juice)

1 shot of vodka

2 shots of ginger beer

Squeeze a lime on top and drop the lime in the drink

Serve without stirring.


Copper on the floor!


Crane Melons

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 17, 2013 at 9:55 AM


The Crane Melon Barn in Santa Rosa, California

A couple of years ago while my sister and I were visiting my oldest daughter at Sonoma State University, we passed the Crane Melon Barn on our way to a sorority event in Santa Rosa. There was a Christmas boutique at the barn that day, so on our way back to Sonoma State we stopped to check it out. The barn was full of reasonably priced vintage and antique jewelry, Christmas items, new things and old, furniture, jams and jellies, and a lot of unique items made by Sonoma County artists and crafters. We walked out of there loaded with bags full of treasures that day!

Last week we were on our way to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa and saw that the Crane Melon Barn was open and selling Crane melons. Never having seen a Crane melon, we thought we better stop and take a look. The melons were piled on the floor and while looking at them it appeared to me that no two melons look the same. Most of the melons are slightly torpedo shaped with a pointed tip on one end.  

A pile of Crane melons

On Wikipedia I found that the melons were developed in the early 1900's by Oliver Crane, who crossed several species of melons that included Japanese melon, Persian melon, ambrosia melon, and a white melon. 

The melons smell like a cross between a honeydew and a cantalope. The melon flesh is orange and is incredibly sweet and juicy. The Crane family says what makes their Crane melons so good is the terroir, a French term for the special combination of soil, climate and farming techniques.

Closeup view of a Crane melon

The inside of a Crane melon

The Crane melon is only in season and available during September and October and can only be purchased at the barn, so you still have a few weeks to give them a try. Besides the melons you can also purchase Crane yellow flesh watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, and Crane honey.

Heirloom tomatoes for sale at the Crane Melon Barn

The Crane melon barn was built in 1896 and when not being used for melon sales or the Christmas boutique, it is available to rent for weddings, family reunions, and birthday parties and such. There is a full kitchen setup in the barn. 

The Christmas boutique starts Thanksgiving weekend and runs until Christmas. We are already planning our trip to the boutique!


Ahoy! From a Houseboat on Lake Shasta

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 1, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Last year I won a silent auction lot at the Terry Patters Golf Tournament Benefiting Melanoma Research… a Houseboating Trip from Shasta Marina Resort! I had never been to Lake Shasta, or on a houseboat, so this was going to be a new adventure for me. Our cousin Lori won the houseboat trip the year prior, and her family claimed it was the best family vacation ever, so we were ready to give it a spin. My husband had fond memories of summers spent camping with his family of 9 on Lake Shasta, so for him, it was a return to the huge manzanita and squawking blue jays of his youth.


Fishing on the Backbone Arm of Lake Shasta

I wasn’t quite sure how you shop, pack and cook for a large group on a small boat in the middle of a lake, so I started doing some research online. I googled “houseboating tips” “houseboating Lake Shasta” etc. and found some helpful guidance, such as: “How many nights could I be locked in a hotel room with these people before I lose my mind?!” Lori also had some helpful hints such as air freshener for each bathroom, with a men’s and women’s designation. Planning the food would take some effort, so step one was working up a menu. I conferred with our friend Herb who was coming on the trip, he had cooked in the catering kitchen at Wente Vineyards for a number of years, so we got the ball rolling. We finalized our menu with:

Breakfast: 1) bacon, eggs, toast and home fries; 2) whole wheat sourdough French toast and sausage; 3) omelettest; 4) buttermilk and blueberry pancakes.

Lunch: 1) green salad, 2) fruit salad, 3) chicken salad or wraps. We were planning heavy breakfast and dinner so lunch would be light. Or better yet, skip the KP duties, hop in the boat and travel to a marina with a restaurant on the water for lunch and an ice-cold brew. Well, we found out that the restaurants were kind of on the water. With the water level down on the lake, each marina had a steep incline to reach the restaurant and store on dry land. There were shuttles, but we never seemed to catch the shuttle on the uphill trek, only the downhill, so we got our exercise there.


Silverthorn Pizza & Pub on Lake Shasta

Dinners: 1) spaghetti, green salad and garlic bread; 2) BBQ tri-tip, asparagus and corn; 3) buttermilk marinated BBQ chicken, grilled artichokes and beans (originally I was going to make pintos from scratch on board, but I just loaded two large cans of BBQ beans that were quite tasty); 3) Fajitas made with the left over tri-tip and chicken. Herb made the spaghetti sauce in advance and froze it, so that our first night on the boat we wouldn’t have to stress over dinner.


Originally my menu included fish, but being on a lake we were unfamiliar with, I crossed those off the list, which turned out to be a good thing. We ended up with only 2 bass, enough for Bob and I to grill for dinner when we returned home!


Fishing for Bass on Lake Shasta

After working up the menu, I started breaking down the items on a shopping list, which was gi-normous. How long were we staying, a month? We split the shopping list up between our four groups, and it actually worked out very well. There are small stores at all of the marinas, so if we were short on something, they had the basics. But if you don’t have a small boat in tow, gas is not cheap on a houseboat, don’t plan on making too many trips to the store, that dozen eggs could end up costing you $125 in gas!


When camping, I pack up a little carry case of spices and specialty items, so that served us well on this trip. Definitely bring 1 or 2 good knives; you’ll need them, along with some lightweight cutting boards. We always had 3 or 4 of us in the kitchen, so the spares came in handy. I filled up on the herbs and spices that I use regularly, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, Cajun seasoning, cinnamon, vanilla (I found out on the lake that I accidentally brought almond extract instead of vanilla – the French toast came out fine), lots of kitchen towels, ziplocks, scissors, lighter, handsoap, etc. Next time I would bring some Tupperware too.


We arrived at Shasta Marina Resort, and the lake was down, so you drive about a mile down the canyon to reach the houseboats. They provide carts to empty all of your earthly belongings (that’s what it looked like, but our helper said our load looked “average” onto a pontoon boat. They deliver you around to your houseboat, which was very handy. I saw a couple of marinas where you were carting your goods for quite a distance to get to the houseboat. The crew gives you a 1-hour crash course in houseboating, and bon voyage! 

This boat was an absolute DE-luxe liner! Air conditioning, full size fridge (which we packed to the gills!), dishwasher, trash compactor, gas stove, microwave, blender, hot tub, slide, bar upstairs, BBQ, satellite T.V., this was not roughing it! They provide you in advance with a list of items you should bring, so we were set.



Volcanic views of Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen from the lake

Funny thing, we didn’t have any alcoholic beverages on our shopping list, but plenty showed up, and this didn’t include the ice chest full of beer.


The wet bar

Since this is a foodie blog I do need to include a couple of simple recipes; sorry, no measurements, this was casual cooking at its best. For our GRILLED ARTICHOKES, we cut the artichokes in half and boiled them for an hour with a dash of vinegar, salt and smashed garlic cloves (our Granny’s recipe). After draining, we poured olive oil lightly over the interior half, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and some crushed garlic. Place these on the grill, interior half up, for about 5-7 minutes, flip and grill for another 5-7 minutes. No need for mayonnaise with these artichokes, they are full of flavor.


Grilled Artichokes

For ROASTED ASPARAGUS, we drizzled lightly with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and covered with a head of finely diced garlic, broiled for about 8-10 minutes, quick, easy, delicious.

The BUTTERMILK BBQ CHICKEN was so moist and tender, and oh so easy. We cut the chickens in half the night before, taking out the backbone, and filled ziplock bags with buttermilk and a couple of tablespoons of my favorite spice mix from New Orleans, Don’s Seafood Low Salt All Purpose Seasoning (any Cajun or Creole spice mix will do). The next morning be sure to mix the chicken and buttermilk so all sides are evenly covered, and reseal the ziplock. When you are ready to BBQ, drain off the buttermilk and sprinkle more seasoning on the chicken, and you can drizzle some olive oil over the chicken so it doesn’t stick to the grill, and BBQ low and slow for about 1 ¼, ‘til the juices run clear. This chicken was finger lickin’ good.


Bridgette at the helm with chicken fajitas

For the FAJITAS, I put salt, pepper and garlic powder on the tri-tips in the morning and let them marinade for the day. We BBQ’d the tri-tips to medium for our first meal, so reheating for the fajitas didn't dry the meat out. We cut the cooked tri-tips into ¼” slices against the grain, and those slices into strips, and we shredded the chicken. Our friends had brought a large flat electric griddle (perfect for large quantities of French toast, pancakes and fajitas), so we cooked the beef on the griddle and the chicken in a large frying pan.

We used the same ingredients for both versions. We sliced red and green bell peppers, pasilla (or poblano) peppers, yellow onions and sautéed them in olive oil with cumin and Mexican oregano until soft, adding diced garlic for the last few minutes. We added a small can of diced green chiles, a can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, salt and pepper to taste, and a little bit of chicken broth to moisten the mixture, and mixed in chopped fresh cilantro at the end.


Chicken & Beef Fajitas

We served the fajitas on whole wheat tortillas with fresh salsa that our friend Dede whipped up in the blender and GUACAMOLE that included diced avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, green and red onions, finely minced garlic, salt, pepper and garlic powder. To top them off we had fresh chopped cilantro, El Salvadoran sour cream (oh man, you better run down to Mi Pueblo and pick this up!) and some Tajin Classico seasoning (also from Mi Pueblo) that has a zip of lime flavor.

Guacamole, Salsa and Tajin

There is plenty to do in and around Lake Shasta, we found a great single track mountain bike trail at Bailey Cove on the McCloud Arm of the Lake.

Bailey Cove Trail

And we took a couple of hikes up the creeks and canyons that were absolutely gorgeous - huge ferns, acres of wild blackberries, some beautiful back country waiting to be discovered.


Creeks off the Backbone Arm of Shasta

On our last evening, as with any summer vacation, we had to break out the S’MORES! We were able to pull a campfire permit for free - we only needed a bucket and shovel (which were on the houseboat), and a responsible person (now that was questionable!).

I had watched an episode of The Pioneer Woman with some s’mores variations, so we picked up some Peppermint Patties at one of the marinas, sliced up some strawberries, and we used some light chocolate wafers called Hello Brownie Crisps from Costco and graham crackers for the outer sandwich. Bridgette was our campfire mistress and Lin whipped up the s’mores to order with a variety of combinations, it was a great ending to the weekend.


S'mores around the campfire


By the last morning, needless to say, we were toast; there would be no toast served for breakfast, or blueberry pancakes for that matter! We knew we had to pack and clean up, so nobody was in the mood to make a huge mess in the kitchen and have to clean it up. Our mass of leftover fajitas made for some killer breakfast burritos, on paper plates of course!


Fajita Breakfast Burritos

All in all, this was definitely a memorable vacation, and I would highly recommend it to any family or group of friends (just remember the “locked in the hotel room” when choosing cabin mates!). There’s something about literally being on the water 24/7, the break of the waves, the run of the creek, the splash of the fish, the cry of the hawk, you could call it Relaxation 101.


And just in case you are interested, Shasta Marina Resort has generously donated another 4-night stay on their 16-Sleeper Mirage for the 3rd Annual Terry Patters Golf Tournament, taking place August 5th at Poppy Ridge Golf Course in Livermore. Come for dinner or a round of golf and be there to win your next food and fun-filled summer excursion!


Ahoy! Nancy


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

Chifrijo, Not Your Average Chicharron

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 17, 2013 at 9:10 AM

I recently journeyed with my buddy Patty to the Central American country of Costa Rica. We were visiting our friends Diane and Ernie who live in the small town of Grecia, busy in their missionary Bible education work. You may remember the blog from their going away party where we all cooked Costa Rican foods for the occasion, an all-day affair! Costa Rica was quite an adventure, a scenic country surrounded by the sea, a vast biodiversity of flora and fauna (and bugs!), friendly locals, delicious food, and best of all, coffee is one of their main crops. It’s going to take a couple of stories to cover this sojourn, so I’m going to start with our first home cooked meal with our Tica friend Karen.


Patty, Karen & Diane, on our trek to Los Chorros Waterfalls

A native Costa Rican, Karen volunteered to teach us how to make a local favorite, Chifrijo. It is a fried pork dish that you serve in a bowl over rice, beans, and topped with fresh pico. Chifrijo is described as “the king of Tico bar food,” and is served in la ferias  (farmers markets), by street vendors, and in sodas (small restaurants, not pop!). We began our escapade with Karen on a hike to the Los Chorros waterfalls near her home, an absolutely gorgeous setting found down a steep and narrow dirt road. We only passed one family on the hike (from Ohio!), it was gorgeous.

Los Chorros Waterfalls @ Grecia Costa Rica

On our way home we stopped at la feria for some fresh ingredients from the local farmers. Diane had already purchased some precooked Chicharrón - but hold your horses, this is not the deep fried pork rind you find in other Latin American countries - in Costa Rica Chicharrón are usually made from pork ribs or similar cuts.

Costa Rican Chicarron, fried at the butcher shop

The size of our party had grown, so we needed more pork (yay!), so we stopped at the butcher shop in the market and picked up some posta de cerdo. I can’t quite figure out what it means when translated, pork something, maybe ribs, but it looked like good, fresh pork shoulder cut into 2” cubes.

La Feria, fruiticultura las delicias!

We sorted through a vast array of local fruits and vegetables, and picked up some chayote, corn, avocado and culantro leaves. Culantro is a cousin to cilantro, an herb indigenous to continental Tropical America and the West Indies. It has long spiny, serrated leaves, and a similar flavor to cilantro, only stronger.


The fruits of Costa Rica

When we got back to the house I stepped into the sous-chef position, helping to chop ingredients for Karen’s chifrijo. I was taking notes and pictures throughout the evening on my iphone as Karen was cooking away on a full stove.

Preparing the chayote for the Guiso

I didn’t have time to measure anything, so the recipes below wouldn’t pass our cookbook editor’s requirements, but basic ingredients and directions are listed! I did find a chifrijo recipe from a Costa Rican mother and son on the Latin Street Food episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, an authentic recipe with correct measurements. Let’s get on with the preparations, Por favor deja comer!


Posta de cerdo, or pork, 2" cubes

Head of garlic, roughly diced



Add the diced garlic to meat and marinate for ½ hour to 2 hours.

Posta de cerda and Garlic, that means pork!

Fry the pork in a oil until lightly brown. Instead of just salting the meat, you add salt to maybe ½ to 1 cup water to dissolve, and add the salted water to the browned meat, and simmer.


Adding salt water to the fresh chicharron

Cut the Chicharrón into bite size pieces, 3/4" cubes. While the pork is cooking you can make the pico and rice. Beans were cooked in advance, black beans are a staple, but for this meal Diane had shelled and cooked up some fresh frijoles tiernos (large pinto beans) with oregano, garlic, Chicharrón meat and a bit of salt and pepper.

Not your average chicarron! Cubed and ready to serve

To serve the chifrijo, place a scoop of rice in the bottom of a bowl, a layer of beans, cover with chifrijo and top with fresh pico. Tuck some tortilla chips into the side of the bowl and serve with sliced avocado.









Dice the onion and tomato to a small chop, and marinate in lime juice. Add the jalapeno and culantro, salt to taste, and serve





Onion, diced

Garlic, diced

Sweet Pepper, diced

Crema Dulce (whipped cream)


Corn, chayote and crema dulce for guiso

Peel, cut out the inner seed and chop the chayote into 1/2" cubes. Be careful handling chayotes, they can cause an allergic reaction - tingling, numbness, rash and peeling of your hands. The safest bet is to wear plastic gloves. The chayote in Costa Rica didn't seem to have as prickly of skin as we find in America, we cleaned and peeled them under running water and didn't have any problems. Cut the corn off the cob. Sauté diced garlic, onion, pepper, corn, add chayote and saute. Add crema and bring to a boil. Add a bit of water to cover, simmer until chayote is soft, about 15 minutes. Salt to taste and enjoy!

Pura Vida baby! (i.e. plenty of life or this is living!)

In the Kitchen with Karen (sounds like a new Food Network Show to me!)

~ Nancita the hungry Gringita


Cool Things to See in San Francisco

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 5, 2013 at 11:35 PM
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge as seen from a vista point on Lincoln Blvd.

My daughters and I love to go on day trips to San Francisco. We often don't have any destination in mind when we begin our trip and will just spend the day exploring the city.  Today I am sharing with you some of our favorite spots and some of the places we take our visitors.

The 16th Ave Tiled Steps in the Sunset area

One of our favorite spots in San Francisco are the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. Not many people know about these steps. Each of the 163 steps has a unique and colorful mosaic and together the steps create a design that starts out as a swirling river filled with sea life and surrounded by plants, insects, and wildlife that runs into an ocean that leads to the moon and then the sun. At the bottom, on the sides of the steps is a well kept botanical garden. The steps are in a residential neighborhood, so parking is free and can be easy to find.

The view from the top of the steps includes the Pacific Ocean

A walk to the top of the steps is a must as the view is great. However, an even grander view is just a hundred or so more steps higher. If you walk to the top of the steps and take a right a right, there is a set of steps built into the retaining wall that lead to Noriega Street above. After climbing those steps there is another set of steps built into the side of a hill that lead up to Grand View Park. Just like the name, the view is grand from the park. From this vantage point, you can see the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Park, and downtown San Francisco.
One of the great views from Grand View Park           Map with Grand View Park

The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is one our favorite places. During the weekends finding a parking place can be very difficult unless you arrive in the morning. The tea gardens are serene and beautiful. And, tea and snacks are served in the tea house. Admission to the park is $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for youths, and $2.00 for children. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday admission is free if you enter BEFORE 10:00 am. 
The bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden and one of the pagodas

An egret in one of the koi ponds

Enjoying tea and snacks at the tea house

On a clear day, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge can provide you with some beautiful views of San Francisco and the bay.  There is limited parking on both sides of the bridge. If you want to take a hike to the bridge and then walk across the bridge, there is a vista point on Lincoln Blvd. (on the east side of the bridge) with the Battery East Trail passing by.  For a small fee you can park there and walk or unload your bike and ride. Check out this website for some important information about other means of getting to the bridge and paying the toll:  http://goldengatebridge.org/visitors/directions.php
Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge

If walking across the bridge is not for you, but you would like to get some good photos of the bridge, Baker Beach has a great view of the bridge. From this beach you might even see a whale making its way into the bay. On a sunny day, Baker Beach can be a great place to play on the beach or just sit and watch the boats go by.  If you have seen the movie Princess Diaries, the beach party that "Mia" attended was at Baker Beach.
Baker Beach

The Palace of Fine Arts was part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition which opened in 1915. From 1969 until January 2013 the Exploratorium discovery museum was located here, but has moved to Pier 15 at the Embarcadero. This old beauty is very photogenic and is just a great place to explore and take pictures. The Palace of Fine Arts is located on the edge of a residential neighborhood, so parking is free.

The Palace of Fine Arts

A stop in North Beach (an Italian neighborhood off of Columbus Ave.) for a cannoli and latte is always a must. If you are visiting in the late afternoon, be on alert for the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. My only sighting of these birds was right around the corner from Club Fugazi. The parrots were making quite a racket and they were easy to locate by following the noise they were making.
A non-fat latte and cannoli in the North Beach neighborhood

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Just a few blocks from North Beach in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, Coit Tower is perched on top of Telegraph Hill. You can take steps up to Coit Tower from the residential neighborhood below or you can also park in the free parking lot at the tower. Some of the stairs leading up to Coit Tower can be found at the end of Filbert Street. During the peak tourist season you may need some patience waiting for a parking place in the tower's parking lot.
Coit Tower

The tower opens at 10:00 am and it is free to walk around inside the lower level. Inside the lower level are some great murals that were painted in the 1930's. There are some great views of San Francisco from the top of Coit Tower. For a fee you can take an elevator ride to the top. The last time we were there the people running the elevator said it closes at 6:30 pm year round. The view is gorgeous after dusk, so the fall and winter months are the only months you would be able to see the view in the dark. One place you can get a great photo of the Bay Bridge and Ferry Building after dark is if you walk around the back of the tower. To get in back of the tower, you will need to walk up the steps in front of the tower and enter the gate on the left side.  There is a walkway that leads to a lawn area in the back. Once on the lawn area, walk to the back and at the left you will see an opening with some great views.
One of the murals inside Coit Tower

Another Coit Tower Mural

A view from Coit Tower at dusk

My daughters and I just visited the Ferry Building, which is located on the Embarcadero, for the first time a few months ago. We had made some earlier attempts, but we either could not find parking or the building had already closed during our previous attempts. The Ferry Building is home to several shops and a few restaurants. One of San Francisco's hottest new restaurants, The Slanted Door, is inside the Ferry Building. Most of the restaurants have outdoor dining and offer a great view of Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, and the Bay.  On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays there is a farmers market in front of the Ferry Building.
The front of the Ferry Building

The inside of the Ferry Building

Outdoor dining at the Ferry Building

When I was a kid my parents would sometimes drive though "Haight Ashbury" when it was a haven for hippies from all over the world. We never, ever stopped. Today the Haight is an interesting area to explore and visit. In this neighborhood you can find some good restaurants, interesting boutiques, and vintage clothing shops. There are some eclectic buildings and some beautiful Victorian homes. There are some people here that you should not trust, so use caution if you visit this area.

Some of the sights in the Haight

Another thing we like to do is take our visitors to see places they might recognize from TV shows or movies. The house that starred in Mrs. Doubtfire can be found at 2640 Steiner Street, which was the actual address used in the movie. Nearly 1.25 miles south on Steiner Street are the "Painted Ladies" Victorian homes that were seen in the opening credits of the Full House TV series. They are located across the street from Alamo Square Park.
The house from Mrs. Doubtfire located at 2640 Steiner Street

The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square

If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to take a jacket. It can get cold and foggy there.

~merry carter~

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

The Beach House at Pajaro Dunes

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

One of the spectacular sunsets at Pajaro Dunes

A couple of weekends ago I stayed at a beach house in the gated community of Pajaro Dunes on the Monterey Bay coastline in California with a group of friends from high school. We had the time of our lives there!

The inside of the beach house was light and cheery. The color scheme inside was white, yellow, and light blue, and there were windows everywhere. A whimsical set of bare toes was designed into the hearth of the stone fireplace.

The front entrance to the beach house

The backside of the beach house looked out onto Monterey Bay

The cheery yellow, white, and light blue color scheme in the beach house

Can you see the bare toes on the hearth of the fireplace?

Pajaro Dunes is on the edge of Watsonville, a farming community where most of the artichokes, raspberries, strawberries, lettuce, and cabbage that we consume in the San Francisco Bay Area is grown. Even if you don't live in the Bay Area, if you have any fruit or veggies in the house, it's a good chance some of it was grown in Watsonville. For me, driving through the Pajaro Valley to get to the beach house was like taking a step back in time. There were miles upon miles of row crops and old trucks loaded with packaged berries leaving the farms to deliver fresh berries. In my younger days, the San Francisco South Bay and East Bay areas used to be large farming communities and most of that fertile ground is now covered with housing tracts, and the high tech businesses that make up the Silicon Valley. 


Miles of artichokes, lettuce, strawberries, cauliflower and other row crops line the bottom of the Pajaro Valley

Acres of raspberries are covered with tents

Sorry for the digression. The beach house was built on a small cliff above the beach. There were Adirondack chairs placed around a fire pit and that looked out onto the bay.  This is where we spent hours visiting, listening to the waves, and watching pods of dolphins and sea lions swim by. I was excited to see the dolphins as I have never seen them off the coast of California. I'll tell you, there is nothing like an early morning of enjoying a great cup of coffee while watching dolphins swimming and frolicking in the surf.

I sat here and watched pods of dolphins and sea lions swim by

At night we made a bonfire in the fire pit and sat around the fire telling stories and laughing until we ran out of wood. We found sand dollars during our walks along the beach in the morning.  We ventured away from the beach house once to go up the coast to Capitola for lunch and to visit some of the little shops there.

There are condos and beach houses (including the one where we stayed) in Pajaro Dunes for rent.  Here is a link to the website where this particular beach house can be rented:  House 6 - At the Dunes Rentals


What a wonderful way to spend a weekend and to get a much needed attitude adjustment. And, only about an hour and a half from home!


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

I checked one off the bucket list!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 23, 2012 at 12:25 AM

Cathy, Kyan, Sheri, and Merry with Chef John Ash

I have a bucket list that's about a mile long and it's not often that I get to check something off the list. OK, maybe I should shorten the list and make it a bit realistic, but it's good to have unobtainable dreams. Gives you character.

A couple of weekends ago I actually got to check "Learn to cook with a chef from the Food Network" off my bucket list. This adventure started when my friend Sheri asked me if I was interested in taking a cooking class at River Myst Haven in the Healdsburg area. At the time my mother was not well and my sisters and I were spending a lot of time either at the hospital or at our parent's house helping out on the weekends. When I found out that Chef John Ash was teaching the class, I made it clear to my sisters that I would not be available on that Saturday to help out.  So, I guiltily told Sheri, Yes! (Unfortunately, our mother passed away shortly before the class.)

Chef John Ash was a host of two TV shows on the Food Network. He now travels the world teaching cooking classes and is an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley. He is known as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine." In 1980 he opened a restaurant John Ash & Company in Santa Rosa, which was the first restaurant in the Northern California wine country to make dishes from the local, seasonal ingredients that complemented the wines made in the region. He has published three cookbooks and his fourth, Culinary Birds, will be released in the fall of 2013. 

Chef John Ash's "Culinary Birds" cookbook to be released in the fall of 2013

River Myst Haven is a small event facility in the hills of the Russian River Valley outside of Healdsburg, which is in the Sonoma County wine region. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Pleasanton, where my friend Cathy and I picked up Sheri and her next door neighbor Kyan.  We were a bit early when we arrived at River Myst so we did a bit of exploring outside where we ran into Percy the peacock and some wild turkeys that just happened to be cruising by.

River Myst Haven

The view from River Myst Haven

Percy the Peacock

One of several wild turkeys cruising by

The day of our class there were thirteen students and five dishes to cook. All of the dishes were made with chicken and the recipes were from the Culinary Birds cookbook. The chicken that we used in our dishes was produced at Pepper Ranch Poultry in Petaluma. The chickens raised at Pepper Ranch are heritage meat chickens that are smaller and slower growing than the chicken we buy in the grocery store. The Pepper Ranch follows humane practices where the chickens are on pasture and are free to go in and out of chicken houses.

Pepper Ranch Poultry in Petaluma (photo borrowed from PRP's Facebook site)

In addition to Chef John Ash, there were a couple of other culinary experts on hand that day to help answer questions and teach cooking methods. Mei Ibach a chef and culinary instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College was one of the helpers. Another creative women, whose name I did not catch, beautifully arranged the veggies that we would be using that day.

The fresh veggies, herbs, and spices we used in our dishes

When it was time to start preparing the food, the chef split us into groups with people we did not know. My group was responsible for making grilled chicken kebabs with tzatziki sauce and flatbread. The chicken kebabs were seasoned with a marinade made with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, rosemary, kosher salt, and pepper.  The chef made the dough earlier for the grilled flatbread and it was my group's responsibility to roll out the dough and grill it. These kebabs were the best kebabs I have eaten. I have since made them at home and my family loved them as well.

Grilling tip from the chef:  Before placing food on the grill, the grill should be oiled. The chef said that he uses a rolled up towel to evenly oil the grill and to prevent the grill from becoming over oiled. When a grill is over oiled it can cause fire flare-ups that will burn the food.

The chicken kabobs ready for grilling

The flatbread on the grill

The plated kabobs being prepped for serving

The finished chicken kebabs with tzatziki and grilled pita bread

When we were done prepping our dishes, we got to enjoy a glass of wine. Once everyone was done prepping, we all sat at a nicely set table and one by one each group got up to finish cooking their dish and serve it to the class. All of the food was incredible and it was almost thrilling to know that I have the ability to make all of these dishes myself.

Sheri's group made a chicken and shrimp meatball soup with cellophane noodles.  Just before serving, fresh lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro was added, which really finished off the soup with a fresh flavor.

Chicken and shrimp meatballs

The chicken and shrimp meatball soup

Kyan's group made 5 spice chicken in rice paper and with a dipping sauce. Her group actually made the 5 spice powder themselves by using a coffee grinder to grind the spices. Kyan passed around the freshly prepared 5 spice powder along with an older bottled version of five spice powder so that we could smell the difference. The freshly prepared five spice was much more fragrant than the older bottled powder, which makes me more inclined to want to grind my own 5 spice just prior to using it.

FRYING TIPs:  A couple of good tips we learned from the chef when he talked about making this dish was that the range for frying foods is 350 - 375 degrees F.  If food is fried below 350 F, the food will absorb the oil and become oily or mushy.  Also, food should be cold before put into the hot oil. The cold will help create a barrier that will prevent the food from absorbing the oil.  You should however, monitor the temperature of the oil when adding the cold food to the hot oil to ensure that it does not drop below 350 F.

Chef John Ash demonstrating how to roll the chicken filling in rice paper

The prepared chicken rolls prior to frying

5 spice chicken in rice paper

Cathy's group made Vietnamese salad with grilled chicken. This salad was great. It was especially nice eating this salad freshly made. In the past when I have ordered this salad in restaurants the salads were not freshly made, so the vegetables were not crisp and the flavors had fused in an undesirable way.

After Cathy's group softened the rice noodles the noodles sat for some time before the salad was served. We expected the noodles to be stuck together and served in clumps, but they were all easily separated.

Cathy chopping the ingredients for the Vietnamese salad with chicken

The freshly sliced and julienned veggies

The grilled chicken thighs used in the salad

The Vietnamese salad with chicken

The last dish that was served was a chicken slider with watercress and caramelized onion jam. This too was very good. Ginger poached chicken was used to make the sandwich.

Chicken slider made with ginger poached chicken and dressed with watercress and caramelized onion jam

The class participants enjoying the dishes made during the class.

River Myst will be hosting a cooking class with Chef John Ash in September and October (go here to see the schedule: http://www.rivermysthaven.com/food_wine_education.html). I highly recommend signing up for one of the classes. Opportunities for a hands-on cooking class with a chef of his caliber don't come often!


A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. ~Elsa Schiaparelli

Disney's Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Cole Slaw

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 7, 2012 at 10:30 AM


The Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue at Disneyland; an outdoor, sit down and be served, all you can eat family style restaurant

Every November my family and I go to Disneyland and California Adventure. We usually head down to Anaheim the first or second Thursday of November when the kids are out of school for a teacher workday or Veteran's Day holiday. November has worked out well for us for a few reasons: cooler weather, the park is not too crowded, Christmas holiday specials are filmed during this time so we sometimes see stars performing, and the park is decorated for Christmas.

Cinderella's castle decorated for Christmas


Disneyland's Main Street decorated for Christmas

New Orleans Square

We especially like the Haunted Mansion at this time of the year because it is decorated in a Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it is a lot of fun to experience. One of my favorite parts on the ride is when we pass by a holiday party with a decorated Christmas tree and a festive table set for the party. Transparent ghosts dance around the room and you can smell gingerbread as you pass through the area. My youngest daughter had only seen the Haunted House decorated in this fashion until she went to Disneyland with a school group during the month of May a few years ago. She was disappointed by how drab it was in comparison to how it looks in November.

The Haunted Mansion decorated in the Nightmare before Christmas decor

We have encountered rain a few times, but rain usually means no crowds and shorter lines, so we almost welcome it. However, a lesson we learned several years ago is to bring a few pairs of shoes. If your shoes get wet, they are not going to be dry by the next day and a new pair of shoes at the park will cost you about the same price as a ticket into the park.


We usually park hop and eat most of our meals in California Adventure (besides good food you can also get craft beer, wine, and margaritas there), however, there are a couple of food stops that we make in Disneyland. Bacon wrapped asparagus is served at the Bengal Barbecue across from the Indiana Jones ride. Good stuff.  The other "must get once during our visit to Disneyland" is the Dole pineapple whip sold at the Tiki Room. More good stuff.


Two favorite foods at Disneyland:  bacon wrapped asparagus and pineapple whip

Last November we discovered the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue in Disneyland. I'm sure plenty of people had discovered it before us. It just had never caught our attention before. It is an outdoor, sit down and be served, all you can eat family style restaurant. Barbecued chicken and ribs, cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are served by some young folks in hokey western garb (but we liked the food anyway).  After hours of walking and standing in line, sitting down and being served is a welcomed relief. Reservations can be made in advance. If you go to Disneyland during peak season, you might want to make your reservations early in the day or before arrival. Click here to find out more about making advance reservations.

I had the recipe for the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue cole slaw and had been making it long before I ate there. I like the recipe a lot--it's is not mayonnaisey and has a bit of a zip. I have provided the recipe for you below.

Guests at the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue sit at tables under canopies

Barbecued ribs and chicken (left), corn bread (right)

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue cole slaw

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Cole Slaw

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup white-wine vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound shredded green cabbage (about 1/2 large cabbage)

1 pound shredded purple cabbage (about 1/2 large cabbage)

2 carrots, shredded

1.  Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne in a blender; blend on low speed until sugar is dissolved.

2.  With blender running, slowly pour oil through top of lid, processing until dressing is combined. Set aside.

3.  Combine shredded cabbage and shredded carrots in a separate large bowl. Add dressing, tossing to combine. Refrigerate for 2 hours, tossing occasionally before serving.


Reporting from the happiest place on earth,



Posted by holmfamilycookbook on May 28, 2012 at 8:55 AM

My husband and I met Dave the Butcher at a hog butchery class in Berkeley, and he happened to mention a happy hour that involves pork, held every Wednesday night at The Fatted Calf Charcuterie in San Francisco.

Second take…a “Butcher’s Happy Hour,” featuring a whole hog?? Say what?! My ears perked up, I’m in! Pork has always been my flesh of choice, we grew up on my grandmother’s huge pork butt roasts (it’s really from the shoulder) that melted in your mouth and fed the entire family at our large Sunday lunches. But where do you find a date for a porcine happy hour?? Not the faint of heart…no vegetarians…wait, my sister-in-law Paula, the perfect choice! She raises a pair of organic Berkshire hogs every year for home consumption, and she learned how to slaughter and dress a turkey last year, she would be game for this hoggish adventure!

So we’re off to Hayes Valley in San Francisco, I’ve never been to this neck of the woods in the city, a cool foodie Mecca tucked away just off Market. Outdoor cafes, pubs, coffee shops, ice cream stand, food trucks, and much, much more. I’ll be back to this neighborhood when I have more time, and am not weighed down with a bag full of piggy products.

We were welcomed by butchers Matt and Gus, with half of a hog laid out on the butcher block,


Butcher Matt working away on the hind quarter

and the rest hanging from the rack. Again, this is not an event for everyone!

It’s a very casual affair; there are pork snacks to nosh on, along with complimentary tastes of local brews to wash down the appetizers, my favorite was the Denogginizer from Drakes Brewing.

Where have I been? Who knew there was an urban brewery in San Leandro? Well, my sister Susie did, so much to learn at the Butcher’s Happy Hour!

We met other lovers of the other white meat, Chris and Paul. We shared some freshly marinated cauliflower and pickled beets while talking pig, and Paula and I split a hearty meatloaf sandwich from their deli as we watched the butchers wield the weapons.

Paul, Paula and Chris - look how happy they are at happy hour!

While Matt was taking the half-a-hog down to the cuts we are more familiar with, like pork chops, Gus the butcher was working on the Porchetta (doesn’t that just sound delicious?!), an Italian style marinated rolled pork roast, it was a work of art! 

The roast is about 2 feet long,

and then they cut it to order, so I was able to bring home about an eight inch roast,

along with a bag full o’ goodies. The Fatted Calf also carries a wide variety of local organic products, Paula and I both came home with a small crock of butter from McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma. We keep our butter soft and out of the fridge, just like Granny did, so the little crock will come in handy, and the butter is delicious.

With the industrialization of meat processing and beef now being sold even at Walmart, over the past 3 to 4 decades came the demise of the local butcher. Fortunately, there seems to be a renaissance in the making with the corner butcher, charcuterie and boucherie.


Behind the scenes at The Fatted

Along with The Fatted Calf Charcuterie, these artisans of meat are popping up across the landscape in the bay area, The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, Barons Meats in Alameda, Olivier’s Butcher in San Francisco, el Salchichero Handcrafted Charcuterie in Santa Cruz and Main Street Meat & Fish in Pleasanton. Focusing mainly on local, sustainably raised meats, organics like SunFed Organics (family member Pat Byrne was one of our cookbook recipe testers!),

SunFed Organic New York Strip

and some on the whole animal. There’s even a butcher shop on wheels, Avedano’s Meat Wagon can be found, where else but Hayes Valley, Thursdays through Sundays! So get out and support your local butcher, who supports your local rancher, who supports your local economy and your scenic views! And don't forget the Happy Hour!


3-5 pound boned pork shoulder roast, fat and skin on

Fresh garlic, pounded with a mortar and pestle

Lemon zest

Salt and pepper

Toasted ground fennel seed

Chopped Rosemary

Lay the roast flat on a cutting board, skin side down. Sprinkle the interior generously with the herbs and spices. Roll up the pork and tie tightly with butcher's twine. Sprinkle the outside with more fennel seed.

Marinate the porchetta for up to 4 days.

Rub the roast with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt prior to roasting. Cook at 375 to 400 degrees until the outside is browned to a golden hue, then, lower the temperature to 300-325 for 3-4 hours. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes, remove the string and slice into spirals to serve.

We cooked up a batch of homemade applesauce with cinnamon and brown sugar to serve with the porchetta, it’s a must! Along with some red cabbage and roasted potatoes.

~ Yum, Nancy

The Cowgirl Luncheon

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 11, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Yesterday my friend Kim Bonde and I attended the 11th Annual Cowgirl luncheon in Oakdale, which was a fundraiser for the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and one of the events kicking off rodeo week in Oakdale. Tickets for this event went on sale February 15th and the 460+ seat event sold out in less than four hours. Kim drove the hour drive to Oakdale the day the tickets went on sale to get our tickets. The luncheon was held at the Oakdale Community Center.

Oakdale is also known as the "Cowboy Capital of the World," which is a title the town claimed long before its rodeo cowboys won 24 world championships. The small Texas town of Stephenville also claims to be the cowboy capital and says it has more cowboys per square foot than any place in the world. Hmmm. Wouldn't want to be the referee in that battle.

The Cowgirl Luncheon was held at the Oakdale Community Center

This was the first time Kim and I attended the luncheon--or even heard of it for that matter--and we wondered if we would know many people. When we got in the line in front of the community center, we stood behind Bobbie Telles, who we have known for many years. Bobbie told us she stood in line for two hours to buy her tickets for the luncheon. Throughout the day we saw at least 25 people we that we knew and hadn't seen in a long time, so we had a great time chatting with everyone. We even saw my cousin Stacie Holm Brown.

We saw my cousin Stacie Holm Brown at the luncheon

As we walked into the event, we were served champagne by some of the local cowboys and they continued to pour champagne for us throughout the luncheon. When it was time for lunch to be served, the cowboys lined up and began serving lunch to the female guests. The lunch was catered by Steve Medlen's House of Beef in Oakdale. This was one of the best catered lunches I have ever had.  If the lunch the House of Beef catered for nearly 500 people was so good, I'll bet the restaurant is great.

The cowboys lining up to serve lunch

Lunch consisted of grilled steak with peppercorn sauce, garlic red potatoes, and salad

Bottles of Cowgirl Sisterhood wine were on each table

A few of the cowboys serving lunch were world champion cowboys while I was in high school. I have to admit it was a bit of a thrill to see these folks that we looked up to when we were kids.  One of the servers sat at our table to eat his lunch when he was done serving. He was Daniel Green, who was a world champion roper around 2008-2010 (many years after I graduated high school). Daniel told us his daughters' year-round softball games and his son's sporting activities currently keep him from competing nationally. Good man, that Daniel--making his children a high priority!

World Champion Roper Jerold Camarillo filling my glass with champagne

Ace Berry, champion roper and bronc rider

Champion roper Daniel Green

For the last few years a woman involved in rodeo has been honored by the Cowboy Museum at the luncheon. This year the honoree was Emma "Pee Wee" Burge Ott.  Emma was born in 1919 in Giswil, Switzerland and immigrated with her family to the United States when she was 9 years old. After passing through Ellis Island, her parents found work on a dairy farm in the Imperial Valley of California. Emma became proficient in riding dairy calves and at the age of 17 was hired to ride steers in an exhibition.  Three years later she was roping competitively.  She was taught to ride saddle broncs and it was the thrill of her life. She was only 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds, which earned her the nick name of  “Pee Wee”.  She took up trick riding, bronc riding, and relay and flat races for six years--riding at some major rodeos, which included the Pendleton Round Up.  She retired from her career in rodeo at the age of 27.  Pee Wee married a dairyman, Joe Ott, and they had four daughters. At the age of 50, she went to college and became a licensed vocational nurse. Pee Wee died last year at the age of 92. Her daughters and granddaughters were at the Cowgirl Luncheon to accept her award. What a story and what a gal that Pee Wee must have been!

Saddle bronc riding Emma "Pee Wee" Burge Ott. Photo borrowed from Oakdale Cowboy Museum's Farewell Facebook Page.

Kim and I sure had a great time at the Cowgirl Luncheon and have plans to attend again next year. On our way home we encountered some bad weather, including passing through extreme rain, hail, and winds that had accompanied a tornado in the area! 

Funnel cloud seen in the area we were driving through on the way home

Besides the Cowgirl luncheon and the Oakdale Rodeo, which by the way is this weekend, Oakdale is also the home of the Testicle Festival. The American Cowboy Magazine lists the festival as one of the top 101 events to attend in the west.


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.



Wine in Calaveras County? Yes!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 12, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Wine tasting at the Brice Station Winery in Calaveras County


It has been a tradition for several of my friends and I to go to the mountains over President's Day weekend. Since everyone's kids have grown, one of the snow days has turned into a wine tasting day. We have been heading up to Calaveras County in the California Gold Country and attending the President's Wine Weekend for the past several years. This wine country continues to mature! 2012 marked the 16th Annual President's Wine Weekend with 23 participating tasting rooms.

Brice Station Map


The President's Day Wine Weekend is a two day event and we attended on Sunday, which is day two of the event. Our first stop that day was the Brice Station Winery where we picked up our glasses for $10. This was one of the few stops with glasses left. I limited my tasting as I was the designated driver. The favorite appetizer here was the seeded baguette with almond and Gorgonzola spread, broiled and topped with a fig orange peel jam. Also on the Brice Station Winery property is a blacksmith shop that offers blacksmithing classes, and Quyle Kilns. This cooperative kiln offers a variety of pottery and styles. There were various animals around the property including chickens, dogs, geese, and llamas.

Brice Station Tasting Room


We drove on down the hill to Murphys, where the main street is lined with shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms. We stopped at the Vina Moda Winery, which is in a unique building. Across the street was Tanner Vineyards where they were serving the guests out in their gardens. I tasted the Syrah, which complemented the sausages hot off the grill.

Tanner Vineyards Tasting Room


My friends really enjoyed the Zinfandels at Milliare Winery. They particularly enjoyed the Clocksprings from Amador County. In fact, they picked up a bottle for our Kale Soup dinner. It was a wonderful Zinfandel!

Frog's Tooth Winery offered a wide variety of red wines. For food they were serving meatballs in a Tempranillo cranberry sauce.

Frog's Tooth Tasting Room


There were so many tasting rooms in this area, that even though I was driving, my friends could not stop at all of them! My "must visit" wineries are Stevenot Winery and Newsome-Harlow. Chuck Hovey, the winemaker at Stevenot and Scott Klann, owner and winemaker at Newsome-Harlow are judges at the Alameda County Fair's Best of the Bay Wine Competition and Zin Challenge.  I bought a bottle of Viognier at Stevenot and a Syrah at Newsome-Harlow.

Entrance to Stevenot Tasting Room

Inside the Stevenot Tasting Room


Both the Stevenot and Newsome-Harlow tasting rooms are very friendly. The owners of Stevenot, the Oliveto family, were pouring that day. They were serving delicious sausages from the Big Trees Market in Arnold. At Newsome-Harlow, Scott Klann was pouring. His wife, Melanie, was busy with The Kitchen at Newsome-Harlow. They offered fried root vegetables from their garden, a colorful variety of treats. The Courtyard has seating, a gas fire pit, and heated tubes, offering an alternative to the busy street and tasting rooms.

Newsome-Harlow Tasting Room

The courtyard at the Newsome-Harlow Winery


The last stop of the day was the Black Sheep Winery where Jane Drummond–Mullarkey purchased the Raspberry Sparkling Wine. Her Bunco group loves it!

Should you have an opportunity to visit Calaveras wineries – do so! You won’t be disappointed.


~Susie Calhoun~


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.


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