Monday, February 27, 2012

Homemade with Trader Joe's #1: Baked Goat Cheese a la Isa

I love me some Trader Joe's. I'm ceaselessly amazed by the quality affordable products that I can regularly get there and how easy they make it to throw together a fun and impressive looking cocktail party without too much stress. In a new monthly series I'll be sharing with you new fun "recipes" that only require putting together things found at TJ's.

My first recipe was inspired by that delicious warm goat cheese appetizer we enjoyed at Isa during Dine About Town. As I mentioned in my write up I couldn't wait to try it at home! Thanks to Trader Joe's it was simple to effortlessly gathering everything I would need to recreate this for my friends.

1 Container Trader Giotto's Fresh Bruschetta Sauce
1 11oz Cylinder Plain Goat Cheese (you could also choose the herb goat cheese if you prefer)
1 Pkg Pinenuts (they offer them raw I'll let you know an easy method to toast them)
Fresh Basil (if you grow some at home don't bother buying)
1 Loaf good crusty Bread (any of the baguettes are good!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a sheet pan lightly sprayed with olive oil spread a 1/4 cup of raw pinenuts. Lightly spray of the top of the pinenuts so they have a nice coating. Bake for 5 minute, pull out and with a spatula move the pinenuts around so they can toast evenly. Put them back in for another 3 minutes or until they are nice and golden. Set to the side to cool.

I chose to bake & serve mine in a 8" square Pyrex because that's what I have but if you have a prettier dish you would like to use go for it! Any glass or stone bake ware works great. In the 8x8 size pan I was able to use the whole container of Bruschetta sauce. If you choose something smaller you may only use half. Another fun idea is to do multiple smaller dishes and position them intermittently down a long dining table! Using the Bruschetta mix saves you the extra time and effort of preparing the tomatoes, garlic, & other seasonings. Slice the goat cheese in rounds about 1/2 an inch think and lay them on top of the sauce. Bake in your already heated 350 degree oven for 10- 12 minutes to well heated through.

Scatter your toasted pine nuts and some fresh chopped basil over the top of the warm goat cheese, serve with slices of your toasted baguette and enjoy! Be sure whatever you set the dish on is heat resistant (the restaurant served the heated crock on top of another plate, we set ours on a potholder) and make sure your guests know at least for the first 20 - 30 minutes that the serving dish is hot.

This melange of textures and flavors is sure to please your guests, is great enjoyed with wine, and couldn't be easier!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brooklyn Brew Shop's Book Release Event at Hands-On Gourmet

This last week was SF Beer Week and I was able to make it up North 3 different times to enjoy the spoils! Although labeled as such Beer Week isn't actually exclusive to San Francisco, events and specials were available all over the Peninsula which makes it possible for lots of people to appreciate the many beers brewed right here in the Bay Area.

I was browsing the San Francisco section of the Huffington Post when I found this particular event. They were highlighting 5 various things you could attend and this sounded right up my ally! A hands-on cooking event to be paired with beers provided by the Brooklyn Beer Shop to promote their new at home brewing cook book.

The menu was listed as thus:
Hands-on Menu and Beer paring:
Beer 1: Brooklyn Brew Shop's Bourbon Dubbel, paired with:
Moroccan sweet potato pastries
Ginger, cilantro, almonds and cinnamon
Barbeque Duck with Green Papaya Salad
Sonoma duck breast, soy, rice vinegar, and brown sugar
Thai basil, long beans, tamarind, lime and chopped peanuts
Beer 2: Shmaltz's Albino Python, paired with:
Grilled Lamb Kebabs
Mango chutney
Risotto and oven dried tomato croquettes
Marcona almond and cilantro pesto
Beer 3: Shmaltz's Messiah Nut Brown Ale, paired with:
Pumpkin ice cream, ginger snap cookies
Caramelized apples and salt
Vanilla bean ricotta, citrus and pistachios

How could I resist! A good friend's fiance has started home brewing some great beers and my friend loves to cook so I invited them right away (secretly hoping that if there were any fun sounding beer recipes in the book he could help me make them! and of course I just always enjoying doing things with them). We got a nice early start on the drive up so we wouldn't hit traffic in the rainy weather. Turned out we got a bit more time than we needed which left us with about half an hour to kill at a pub down the street called "The Goat". A former Nautical pub for sailors and shipyard workers the bar has been recently taken over by a gentleman with a taste for fine tequila's. With each of our beers he paired us a shot of boutique whiskey.... which none of us really needed but we enjoyed none the less! Finally the time came and we were off to cook and brew!

The event was being held at Hands On Gourmet's class kitchen in SOMA. A large brightly lit space with floor to ceiling windows and an initial industrial edge that was softened by the living wall decorations of small succulents. There were large tables with benches along the right side of the room where the Brewers had set up their demo and down the middle of the space were prep tables where chef's were working on the mise en place for the nights delights. We were greeted with our choice of the nights 3 featured beers and a lovely cheese display. Already fragrent aromas were wafting from the stoves. After most of the attendees had gathered (about 30 in all, the event had sold out) the brewers directed us to grab a seat and began their presentation on how to brew small batches of beer at home.
We listened intently for about 10 minutes, at which point they noted many of us had emptied our glasses and more than anything- they wanted people to drink! So they encouraged everyone to get up grab some more beer and if they were so inclined to start helping the Chef's with preparing the food. It seemed they didn't realize how many people would want to actually cook. The chef's had been instructed that most people would just be there to eat and drink however many were quickly asking what they could work on. I was lucky enough, thanks to Jesse who had come along as well, to grab a spot at the dessert station where I quickly began to bond with the chef and show that I was quite handy!
My first task was helping prepare the filling for the cannoli's, chopping up pistachios and some chocolate pieces and stirring them in with the ricotto, lemon & orange zest, sugar, & Vanilla. I have made cannoli filling from scratch previously so this was fun but not a new challenge. What I was really excited about was making the shells from scratch. Since our station would be the last to need to be finished I did find myself wandering away at the lulls to try some of the other dishes or watch some of the brewing demo.

Duck Prep
Duck Served over Papaya Slaw

Arancini & Lamb Kabab prep
Bastilla Prep

It was fun to watch everyone else working on the different dishes and I tried to pick up some new techniques along the way. I will definitely be trying the Bastilla and Arancini at Home!

Brewer's Brewing

Finished Aracini with Pesto
All of the food was really tasty however I wish they had been a little more direct or descriptive on which beers to pair with which dishes. They outlined it very briefly but didn't go in to detail on why they choose the recipes for those beers or vice versa, nor was it made simple to remember which went with which (some labeling or pouring by the staff could have been cool to get the full experience) None the less we loved the food and the beers.

After trying a few things I got right back to work with Chef Christine who I was working along side for the dessert. It turned out it was her first time making the cannoli shells as well but with a few trials and some ingenuity we found the perfect system.
The first step was to roll out the dough that had been prepared earlier with the pasta roller. Next we cut it in to rounds with a cookie cutter. We learned quickly that the metal dowels we were using to help them hold their shape while they fried needed to be floured to keep them from sticking.
Once we dropped them in the fryer they just took a few minutes to poof up and golden and I got to take turns making sure they crisped up evenly.
And here is our final product! A perfect two bite dessert! Everyone really enjoyed them and I enjoyed getting my hands "dirty" (OK covered in flour) and getting really involved in creating the final product. Christine was so pleased to work with me she sent us home with all the extra gingersnap cookies from the other dessert! (It pays to get involved :))
Me and my new buddy Chef Christine
Any chance to learn new techniques and put my cooking passion to work is another step closer to maybe one day making it my profession. This was over all a wonderfully fun event and a great way to kick off my beer week. I followed it up with Beer and Sausages a Rosamunde in the Mission Friday night and a huge beer festival at Trumer Pilsner Brewery in Berkeley on Sunday that I look forward to telling you all about!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Buttermilk 4 ways (Because the carton always holds too much)

I don't know about you but it drives me nuts when I have to buy like 4 times the amount of an ingredient I need because that's the only size that's offered. It's rare that I come across a recipe that requires a whole Quart of Buttermilk, yet that's the only size they offer it in. No half pints. No 8 ounce cartons. (At least not at my grocery stores that I frequent). So what' s a girl to do? After finding myself in this situation more than once I've cultivated some great buttermilk recipes from epicurious to help you use up all that left over in a hurry.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
This may be the recipe that gets you into too-much-leftover-buttermilk trouble in the first place but now you will have 3 other fabulous recipes to use it up so you don't need to worry! I had never actually made fried chicken before but now that I have my fabulous mini fryer it felt like time. I found this recipe via Epicurious and instantly knew it was a winner as it was based on the recipe served at Ad Hoc, the family dining concept of the illustrious Chef Thomas Keller. First brined over night to really enhance the flavor of the chicken, it is then dredged in a seasoned flour mixture, buttermilk, and the flour mixture again to give it a nice thick coat.

While brewing up the brine of fresh rosemary, lemon, onions & garlic, I couldn't help being transported by the aroma to my elementary school days when I planted my first rosemary bush in our yard and would frequently use the fragrant branches in my "cooking", generally inedible concoctions put together with whatever I could scrounge from the yard or or cabinets. Little could I know back in those days what a joy and creative process cooking would remain for me into my adult life. I love when scents trigger memories and that will always be one of my favorite parts of cooking and eating- creating those lasting memories with friends and loved ones.

Hopefully this Fried Chicken Can become one of those memories for you!

Rosemary- Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 or 6 branches rosemary, each 4 to 5 inches/10 to 12 centimeters long
  • 4 1/2 cups/1 liter water
  • 1 lemon, quartered

( I only bought 6 legs with the drumsticks and thighs removed, in terms of the brine this was actually perfect. There was a lot of flour mixture leftover however)
  • 8 chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs separated
  • 8 chicken wings, wing tips removed
  • 3 cups/420 grams all-purpose/plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups/480 milliliters buttermilk
  • Oil for deep-frying
Make the brine:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons salt after the onion and garlic have cooked for 30 seconds or so. Add the rosemary and cook to heat it, 30 seconds or so. Add the water and lemon, squeezing the juice from the wedges into the water and removing any seeds. Bring the water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to cool. Refrigerate until chilled.
Place all the chicken pieces in a large, sturdy plastic bag.  Set the bag in a large bowl for support. (I used a large gladware container it worked really well in the fridge) Pour the cooled brine and aromatics into the bag. Seal the bag so that you remove as much air as possible and the chicken is submerged in the brine. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, agitating the bag occasionally to redistribute the brine and the chicken.
Prep & Frying:
Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set on a rack or on paper towels. The chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before you cook it, or it can be cooked immediately. Ideally, it should be refrigerated, uncovered, for a day to dry out the skin, I was able to give it about 3 hours 
Combine the flour, black pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a bowl. (At first this all seemed like a lot of seasoning and I could smell the cayenne in the flour mixture which made me nervous but don't be scared by the time it is done it is flavorful but not spicy) Whisk to distribute the ingredients. Divide this mixture between two bowls. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl. Set a rack on a baking sheet/tray. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shake off the excess, and set the dusted pieces on the rack. Dip the pieces in the buttermilk, then dredge them aggressively in the second bowl of flour and return them to the rack.
Heat oil in a pan for deep-frying to 350°F/180°C. Add as many chicken pieces as you can without crowding the pan. Cook the chicken, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes depending on their size. Remove to a clean rack and allow them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
One issue we had was that while it looked great on the outside we weren't able to achieve the necessary doneness in the middle with the fryer. If you notice this when you cut open one of your first pieces have no fear. We baked it in the oven at 350 for about 10 - 15 minutes (depending on the doneness you are starting with) and were able to get it cooked through. Don't be too scared by some pink around the bone if it has a cooked texture (not that translucent gel type look) you are probably fine.

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that dredging was my least favorite part. I really really dislike touching bone in raw chicken. It gives me the willies. and the one drumstick with the broken bone half way poking out? Almost made me barf. there was a lot of wussy whimpering but I did it. In the name of all that is good and tasty. You're welcome.
Overall this fried chicken was incredible. One of the best crusts I have ever tasted and the chicken had so much subtle flavor from the brine it just hit it out of the park!
Buttermilk Biscuits
This has become one of my FAVORITE go to biscuit recipes. I absolutely love it and if I've got some buttermilk lingering in the fridge I find myself reaching for it regularly to turn out a few of these. Originally a Gourmet Magazine creation (June '05 issue) I love to jazz them up with a 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan, Gruyere, or mild cheddar if I have some in the fridge, or a Tablespoon of Italian herbs or garlic powder. One time I even put in blueberries and lemon zest making them some of the fluffiest biscuit/scones you had ever had (pictured below)! Along with the Buttermilk Pancakes below, these are a great canvas for other flavors should you choose but they are also fabulous all on their own.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing biscuits

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
    Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper, then sift again into a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).
    Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6 times. Roll dough into a long cylinder, you can wrap the dough in plastic and place it in the fridge for later if you like (I love to serve my guests biscuits straight from the oven so this saves effort later when other elements need more last minute attention) when you are ready to bake just pulled off small handfuls and place on your parchment paper lined baking sheet with the rugged side up (I like a nice rustic look), arranging them 2 inches apart, and brush tops with milk or cream. Bake until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature.

     Buttermilk Pancakes
    You just can't go wrong with some nice fluffy buttermilk pancakes. I've used this recipe from Gourmet Magazine's May 2004 issue (via Epicurious) a number of times and it is always great. Sometimes to change things up I like to add a couple heaping spoon fulls of jam to the batter to give them some added color and fruity flavor, or a Tablespoon of Pumpkin Pie spice adds great fall flavors. This is a perfect base pancake batter so feel free to get creative!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 

  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk 

  • Vegetable oil for brushing griddle

  • Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk until smooth.

    Heat a griddle or a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface, then brush with oil. Working in batches and using a 1/4-cup measure filled halfway, pour batter onto griddle and cook, turning over once, until golden, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to a heatproof plate and keep warm, covered, in oven. 
    Dried Fruit Buttermilk Scones
    But what if you want a breakfast you can take on the go? This scone recipe is easy and full of vanilla flavor. The original recipe from Gourmet's March 1999 issue called for Dried Sour Cherries but I decided to substitute some dried Plums I already had in my pantry. Still had great flavor, you could also use Dried Apricots or fresh strawberries or blueberries. Before making them I considered adding some citrus zest or spices but I'm glad I stuck to the recipe as the vanilla and brown sugar in the dough and the turbindo sugar on top were all the flavor they needed. I did find the dough to be really sticky right as it came together so I used quite a bit of all purpose flour on my hands to knead it together. The scones were nice and moist in the end so no need to be concerned.

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk plus 1/4 cup for brushing the scones 

  • 1 large egg 

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar 

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising) 

  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder 

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits 

  • 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice

  • granulated sugar for sprinkling

  • In a bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, the egg, the brown sugar, and the vanilla until the mixture is combined well. In another bowl stir together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt and blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the fruit and the buttermilk mixture with a fork until the mixture just forms a sticky but manageable dough. Knead the dough gently for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface, pat it into a 3/4-inch-thick round, (I chose to wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for a little while at this point, you can do this the evening before you want to serve them if you'd like!) and cut it into 8 wedges. On an ungreased baking sheet brush the wedges with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and sprinkle them with the granulated sugar. Bake the scones in the middle of a preheated 400°F. oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden.

    I hope these recipes come in handy the next time you are stuck with a half carton of buttermilk in your fridge! If you want to make them all 1 quart should be enough to make everything!

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    ZAP Zinfandel Festival 2012

    We all know I can't say no to a wine festival. When Amanda messaged me to see if I wanted to join her for the ZAP Zinfandel festival in SF my answer was obviously a resounding yes! Although their ticket prices were a little out of what I usually find to be an appropriate range ($60, I usually draw the line at $40) I signed up regardless eager to see what all the fuss might be about. Organized by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Association this event brings together upwards of 300 wineries that produce Zinfandel from all over the world. In it's entirety the event takes place over 3 days with 4 main events: On Thursday there was a Food pairing event, Friday held a "seminar Style" tasting panel as well as a Wine Maker's Dinner at the Westin St. Francis, and lastly Saturday was the Grand Tasting which we attended. It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco and we were ready to get our Zin on! After a few hiccups before arrival (apparently you can't print tickets at Kinko's? Bastards) We arrived just after 2:30 with 2 and a half hours to soak in as much wine as we could. I don't think any of us were quite prepared for the magnitude of purveyors that were showing at the event!

    As everyone entered the building they were presented with their very own baguette to enjoy throughout the tasting. My $60 was already serving me well. I could have used something to carry it in however (I obsessively only carry small purses... which generally don't have room for baguettes) I found myself wielding it too often like a sword that I was about to inadvertently chop people's heads off with. The event was being held at the Concourse in San Francisco on 8th and Brannan just a few blocks away from AT&T Park. The space was perfect for a wine event with the high ceilings of exposed beams giving it the rustic yet industrial feel of a new age barn. The large foyer where we were presented our glasses and baguettes gave way to two other large show floors each flanked on both sides with raised mezzanines all lined on all sides with table after table of wineries.

    Our first stop was Rombauer Vineyards. We decided a dependable name would be the best way to go to get us off on the right foot and we were not wrong! From there it almost becomes a blur of stop after stop and I didn't take enough notes to describe each Zin to you but let me tell you the selection was vast and the quality was high. Unsurprisingly Seghesio had one of the biggest setups, pouring 5 of their world class Dry Creek Zin's on a 3 table display. They have been a favorite of mine for a long time and I was excited that Kerry got a chance to taste their wines as this was one of the stops during her bachelorette party that she missed. With so many quality places it became increasingly hard to choose where to go next, some we based on recognizable names, some on having no line, others because they sounded fun! At one favorite, Starlite Vineyards, the wine maker actually took us over to the cheese display and served us each a piece of herbed Havarti that he recommended to pair with the wine. We felt quite special after that!.
    I can't believe this is the first I have mentioned the CHEESE!!!! Talk about added value I no longer felt at all at a lose for spending $60. The vast cheese displays set up throughout the many spaces were well worth it. From cubes of cheddar and Swiss to huge hunks of triple cream Bries, Gorgonzola, pieces of Havarti and others it extended our longevity considerably! Served with the standard sliced baguettes and cracker assortments along with grapes and other sliced fruit we had a great time stopping every few wineries to refuel.

    Overall we had a fantastic time at this event. The selection was incredible, the presentation was fantastic and I can't wait to attend again next year. I was really reminded how much I enjoy Zinfandel, a varietal I don't always give a chance, and it opened my eyes to some new producers whose customer I am excited to soon become!

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Dine About Town: Isa

    Alas we come to my last Dine About Town excursion. 3 might have been a little short of my goal but I enjoyed some great new restaurants and I am already looking forward to the next opportunity! Saturday was a big day of Food & Wine adventure for the girls and I starting with the ZAP Zinfandel festival which I will post about next week, followed by dinner at Isa a French/Californian restaurant in the Marina. After many many many conversations about where we should go (Oola, Bottle Cap, & Luella were all discussed) we finally settled on Isa, in part because many of the others weren't participating Saturdays (again, their lose!) and also because we would be meeting up with friends in the Marina after dinner so it would be convenient. I am so glad we did! First off they were offering one of the most extensive menu's out of everyone, secondly because everything we had was incredible. Due to our last minute decision we weren't able to make a reservation but in the end it worked out better than we could have hoped. We arrived just in time to grab 4 seats at the bar and got to enjoy the company of a very cute very friendly bartender while we dined.

    While perusing their website I found the story of the Executive Chef Fascinating. Chef Luke Sung was a Taiwanese immigrant at just 14 years old when he began working in kitchens by the sides of his father and uncle. Over the next 12 years through high school, college, and beyond he worked under some of the most esteemed chef's in the business and returned to San Francisco at just 26 to begin a restaurant of his own. Blending the flavors and techniques of Provence with the finest California ingredients Chef Sung creates the exact type of food I love to eat.

    As I have mentioned many times I love dining with my girlfriends. They let me explore and eat off all of their dishes and order whatever I ask of them. I appreciate their trust that I will not steer them wrong when it comes to enjoying incredible food. As the 4 of us looked over the Prix Fixe menu to see what our options were our Bartender/Server suggested that most dishes were served with a family style aspect in mind. This was just swell for us since we intended to share everything anyway!

    For our first course we settled on- Mussels steamed with white wine, garlic, & tomatoes and served with grilled bread, Butter Lettuce Salad with Bartlett pears, candied walnuts, watercress, & Point Reyes blue cheese, Dungeness Crab Salad with avocado, apples, grapefruit, & tarragon, and Baked Laurel Chenel Goat Cheese with basil pesto, tomato, concasse, & pinenuts.

    I've only tried mussels one or two times previously never really being sure I would like the texture. I have to say I really enjoyed these, to the point that I might brave trying to make them at home. They had such an inherent sweetness and were completely tender, not chewy or rubbery as I had always worried.

    Both salads were delicious. The crab salads lovely presentation (it seems long plates are very "in" right now) showcased all the different ingredients. I particularly liked the way the grapefruit segments played with the crab, bright and tangy not overly bitter but just the right counterpoint to the rich sweet chilled crab.

    The real triumph for us was the baked goat cheese. Three thick slices laid over the bed of concasse tomatoes and garlic baked and topped with crunchy buttery toasted pine nuts and fresh chopped basil it was delicious spread over the crusty bread provided. I'm already looking forward to trying to imitate this one at our next get together. Recipe/directions can be found here!

    Along with our meals we enjoyed a few of their signature Soju cocktails. Soju is a distilled Rice based liquor native to Korea similar to vodka in it's clear appearance and minimal flavor and can basically be substituted for any clear liquor in classic cocktails. I started with their Number 7 cocktail with fresh blackberries and ginger topped with champagne (see picture at top). Fresh and fruity the Soju blended well into the flavors of the drink. Tori had their lemon drop and commented on how well balanced the flavors were, not too sugary sweet (since the soju isn't as harsh the bartender didn't need to add as much sweetness to cover the alcohol). Later in our meal Kerry tried one of their house Greyhound (they seem to be big on the grapefruit) cocktails and was very impressed by the pleasant flavor on that one. I finished with a Negroni a lighter departure from the one I had at Luna Park perhaps because of the milder flavor of the Soju instead of gin or the bartenders lighter hand with the campari.

    The first entree to arrive was Kerry's Spaghetti with Himalayan Truffles, Tomatoes, Basil, & Parmesan Cheese. As simple and delicious as they come this pasta in it's brothy sauce was warm and comforting with it's light fresh flavors.
    As it's pasta counterpoint Tori's Truffle risotto with baby shiitake, hon shimiji mushroom & reggiano was rich and earthy with the arresting aroma of black truffle and sharp salty tang from the reggiano Parmesan. The Arborio rice took on it's full expression of creamy texture and the mushrooms were tender and cooked just right.
    Amanda opted for the Grilled golden gate natural Angus Flat Iron Steak giving us a great balance with the pastas. Cooked to a perfect medium rare the meat was tender and flavorful enriched by the moutarde vert (herbed mustard) &  Bordelaise sauce of red wine, shallots, butter, bone marrow, & demi glace. The potatoes were well seasoned and roasted as were the hericot vert.
    Last to arrive were my Scallops. Pan Seared and served with mashed potatos, brussel sprouts raosted with bacon, and a truffle sauce this is pretty much my dream meal come to life. If I had to eat one meal every night for the rest of my life this would be it. The scallops were just cooked through so the texture was crisp on the top and bottom tender through the center and not at all chewy. The mashed potatoes were smooth and not too thick. I could have gone for a heavier roast on the brussel sprouts as the were a little more firm than I prefer and maybe a quarter cut instead of halves to make them easier to eat but their flavor was great and the little pieces of crispy bacon brought out the best in every aspect of the dish. I sopped up as much of the luscious sauce as I could with the potatoes and scallops, it was good to the last drop!

    While chatting with our Bartender at the beginning of our meal he had suggested (and we of course agreed) that the best thing to do was to order 1 of each of the 4 desserts. We would have come to this conclusion on our own but it was charming how much he enjoyed our eagerness over the menu and our desire to try as much as possible. Without our even needing to ask he had the desserts ready to go when we had finished.

    Our 4 options were (Starting from the top going clockwise) Vanilla Gelato with Biscotti, Grapefruit Granita, Semifreddo all' Amaretto (with amaretti cookies), and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. After sampling them all we came to the consensus that the Granita was our least favorite. While it might make a refreshing palate cleanser after a particularly heavy course as a dessert it was a little too bitter for our tastes. Amanda's favorite was the gelato with it's thick creaminess, The creme brulee was enjoyed by all but was not particularly remarkable, by and large my favorite was the semifreddo. With it's seeming layers of the amaretti cookies crumbled through out it had a delicious grainy texture and toasty nutty amaretto flavor. I wished I didn't have to share (although as always it was much better that I did!).

    We had a great time time dining at Isa. My one regret was that since we sat at the bar at the front I didn't get a chance to get a good look at the dining room, in particular their large back heated and covered patio. Hopefully sometime this summer I'll have an evening to go back (with reservations) and enjoy their space a little bit more!