Exactly what is California Cuisine? Ask a dozen chefs and you’ll get at least a half a dozen different answers, but all of them will have 3 words in common: local, organic and sustainable. And that is where I start, in the farmers’ markets that abound in the SF Bay.
Cal Cuisine has also been described as “a style of cuisine marked by an interest in fusion cuisine (integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients)” (WIKI). Add “chef-driven” and “a focus on letting the ingredients speak for themselves” and this becomes a very good description of my approach to cooking.
My cooking has been influenced by my time in Mexico, where I am building a Casa de Huspedes (guest house) and cooking school. I fell in love with the old world techniques: the time taken to grind spices with a mortar and pestle, toast seeds and chiles on a comal, working the masa to make tortillas by hand— honoring the ingredients and coaxing out the flavors in a way that no other techniques can. These techniques lend themselves beautifully the locally-sourced, organic ingredients we are blessed with in the SF Bay Area; where the food scene is all about a chef’s creativity– the perfect place to explore the fusion of the cuisines I love to cook. Allow me to share this privilege with you, with an exquisite meal which I will prepare in your kitchen.
The featured photo here (left) is one example of the results: Foie Gras presented on a delicate hand-crafted corn masa shell with poached green apple and salsa verde
Below are sample menus; I custom-design every menu I produce, working closely with the host/ess. Get in touch and we can work on something truly memorable, together!
(menus are seasonal, each one is custom-designed working closely with the host/ess)
Just in time for the new year: Why just dine when you can eat your way towards good health and enjoy amazing food, all at the same time? ! I became intrigued with ingredients that do more than “no harm”, herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits and proteins that actually improve longevity, energy, digestive health and counter many of the harmful elements we encounter on a daily basis. I decided to incorporate them a deliberate manner in my dishes. The result is “Salubrious Suppers”, delicious meals that do good! The following menus are also gluten-free.
Baby Shower Party Menu
(loaded with extra folate/iron, beta-carotene and vitamin A)
Amuse Bouche of Roasted Eggplant/ Ricotta / Chickpea Crisps
Roasted Beet / Carrot / Ginger Soup
Arugula and French Lentil Salad / Goat Cheese / Toasted Hazelnuts
Korean Chicken Soup with Ginseng, Garlic and Ginger
Ginseng is well known for its curative properties: it is widely used to boost the immune system, build strength and counter fatigue. Garlic is used to treat heart disease, regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and ginger helps with digestion and also reduces pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals (a single sweet potato provides over 100% of your daily needs for vitamin A, as well as 37% of vitamin C, 16% of vitamin B-6, 10% of pantothenic acid, 15% of potassium and 28% of manganese). Pomegranate has roughly 3x the anti-oxidants of green tea, and Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which significantly boost memory and recall. They reduce inflammation and promote more relaxed, dilated blood vessels, which can turn back the time on heart disease.
Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells; as well as the the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, which means it helps rid the body of excess salts.
Pistachios contain l-arginine, which can make the lining of your arteries more flexible and potentially reduce heart attack and stroke risk, and salmon, of course, is high in Omega 3 fatty acids and essential amino acids. It is served with a side of Bacopa Chutney, made from a micro-green which studies say appears to help people process information faster and which herbal practitioners have been using for years to promote emotional well-being, endurance and a healthy immune system.
Brocollini /EVO / garlic
Chiptole Chocolate Flourless Torte
Just a hint of chile (high in capsicum, known for its anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties) and of course, cacoa is from the same antioxidant group as green tea and wine (polyphenols) which improve cardiovascular health.
Abuelita means “grandmother” in Spanish, and in Mexico is a term of respect for the oldest generation of women, keepers of tradition. Well, this is definitely NOT your traditional Taco Party! Everything, or almost everything, tastes better on a piping-hot, fluffy light handmade corn tortilla- and not just everything Mexican! So in the true California culinary spirit, I thought it would be fun to put together a menu celebrating the fusion of this handheld culinary wonder and the best of several of the cuisines I enjoy.
To make the festivities even more, well… festive… our tortillera will make masa into tortillas right in front of your eyes! (And, if you and your guests want a lesson in the almost-lost-art of tortillas-making, ask about incorporating a class with your party).
(SELECT 6… WE’LL SERVE YOUR GUESTS UNTIL THEY CAN’T EAT ANOTHER BITE!)
Black & Blue
Fliet Mignon, cooked to perfection,
with carmelized onions, topped with blue cheese crumble
Steak & Potatoes
a bed of mashed potatoes with
Steak Florentine and a Balsamic-Rosemary Steak Sauce
Slow-cooked chicken with olives, capers and roasted
Classically-prepared in a garlic butter sauce, and tossed into a taco
Mushrooms, chicken breast,
classic Marsala Sauce
Al la Cubana
Halibut on Sweet Plantain Mash,
Coconut Lime Salsa
Lamb in a traditional lemon-olive oil preparation
with Cranberry Harrisa Chutney
select from Carne Asada, Pollo Adobado or Carnitas
served with Pico de Gallo
From our Margarita Master, “What could work better with a riff on tacos than a riff on the Margarita?! I like to use smokey Mezcal mixed with the sweet smokiness of grilled pineapple blended with fresh lime juice, agave, shaken and served in an ancho chile salt-rimmed glass.”
This menu is also suitable as a TASTING STATION. Tasting Stations are a fun way to do dinner or a cocktail party. They don’t require traditional tabletop service (flatware, dinner plates, etc.), are great for traffic flow and especially work well if your guests are not arriving all at once or you don’t have enough space for seating for a more traditional dinner service. Click here for more Tasting Station ideas!