Mind Shaft Society Meets ChezHelvetica in the Pataphysical Garden

Creativity pulsated this evening with art spawned from the Mind Shaft Society in the form of a Bon Appetit apron transformed with paint splats, apples from the threshold of the Pataphysical Slot Machine (now materializing in the Rheingold Garden) and delicious recipes discovered by ChezHelvetica. Courtesy of Food Network chef Tyler Florence, Salad Nicoise with Seared Tuna took center stage. Like an exploration in Asia, treasure was found in the New May Wah Supermarket on Clement Street with vibrant red ahi tuna. Haricots vert and potatoes from the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market cooked simultaneously with eggs, happily reducing both prep time and clean up. A piquant vinaigrette spiced with fresh tarragon and parsley doused the salad, while a Michael Pozzan Russian River Chardonnay quenched us. An irresistible Apple Crisp made from our friend’s Pippin apples with a topping of butter, brown sugar, and oatmeal (to which I added walnuts) was crowned by vanilla ice cream a la mode. The bright moon, waxing to blue, highlighted this special dinner.


Time For Those “S” Words

Sun. Summer. Squash. Salmon! This evening’s repast featured Squash in a rich Zucchini, Yellow Squash Tart bubbling with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and hints of Garlic, Honey and Thyme. This FoodBuzz recipe is actually a galette, however, the ChezHelvetica pantry yielded a crust used for the dish. Blessed with the bounty of healthy salmon this season (and masterfully skinned at CalMart), a “Dilly Salmon Salad” sided with the Tart. With both Dill Pickle and fresh Dill used, just imagine the tangy flavor heightened by Lemon Juice and Dijon Mustard. Butter lettuce, just plucked from its root, bedded the salad. Parties that Cook provided our Blueberry, Raspberry and Peach Dulce de Leche Crisp dessert recipe. Succulent Peaches and sweet Berries from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market comprised the fruit filling with Trader Joe’s Pecans highlighting the Pecan-Oat topping. Then – witness the amazing transformation of a can (literally the can) of sweetened, condensed milk  – boiled for two hours –  into decadent Dulce de Leche! Our final “S” – Supreme!


June 5 – A Day of Love, Beauty & Elections

With the celestial power of Venus transiting our orbit, rays of beauty and love from the Goddess herself engulfed this 31st Wedding Anniversary celebration. In the reborn Really Room? at ChezHelvetica, we feasted on an array of grilled dishes from Sirloin Steak to Spring Squash to Baguette to White Corn. Piquant spices seasoned both the Squash from the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market (tarragon) and Corn from Trader Joe’s (chile salt), while garlic was rubbed on the La Brea Baguette. The mouth-watering Steaks from Costco needed only a little salt and pepper with a butter rub. A delicious Limerick Lane Zinfandel (Block 1970) accompanied our meal. After a dessert of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream and TJ’s Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, we toasted to June 5 and the incredible day it was. All the Lords and Ladies were smiling aboard the Royal Viking Sea.



Mother’s Day “Tea for Two”

Celebrating my wonderful Mother with an elegant springtime tea follows in the “Tea for Two” theme prevailing at ChezHelvetica. From a Kohler soaking tub to beautiful art created by Jennifer Roberts, this occasion surmounts them all. Inspired by the recipes from the May issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, our feast included Shaved-Radish Finger Sandwiches with Herb Butter on Baguette and Curried Egg Salad (sweetened with Granny Smith apple) on Pita. With Spring Onions and Asparagus purchased the day before from the sun-drenched Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, we delighted in A Savory Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart. Rather than using the Scone recipe in that issue, I opted for a Lemon Walnut recipe from the archives. Delicious Glashoff Farm’s Lemon Curd frosted the warm, earthy Scones. Peet’s Yunan Fancy Tea accompanied our meal in this sitting, replaced later by a DeLoach Chardonnay as we grazed throughout the evening. The secret ingredient to this celebration was unequivocally my incredible Mother. It is her strength, creativity and love that made this all possible. Thank you Mom!

Sicily in San Francisco

Food & Wine’s September 2011 issue promised Sicilian flavor with a fresh Garlic-Tomato Sauce using orange zest and saffron. Let the vicarious travel expedition begin! Early Girl Tomatoes from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, first softened with garlic and red pepper then simmered with precious saffron and oregano, filled the air with sensuous aroma. True Wild Cod fillets (discovered at AK Meats on Clement Street) nestled in the sauce topped Arborio Rice scented with fragrant orange zest, bay leaves and cloves. Grilled Eggplant, roasted walnuts and ricotta cheese on arugula was the perfect accompaniment. With the season’s bounty of Meyer Lemons and Blackberries, the ChezHelvetica dessert this evening featured a Williams-Sonoma recipe for Lemon Bread. A sweet lemony syrup with blackberries drenched the bread for a fitting end to our journey!


It’s Summer Solstice! As apropos, this evening’s entree featured something grilled – Grilled Oregano Prawns, an inspiration from Epicurious. With fresh oregano from our garden, sweet red onion and succulent prawns (from local market, AK Meats), this first of the season venture was off to a great start. A French Fingerling Potato Salad was the perfect complement with its buttery potatoes from Zuckerman Farms (purchased at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market) and a piquant sherry, shallot vinaigrette. Warm multi-grain bread from Grace Baking sopped up the dressing as we enjoyed a golden Chardonnay from BR Cohen. Ya gotta have ice cream as your dessert on an occasion like this and Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream was the ultimate choice!

From the Maccabees to Martha, Via Tuscany

Tonight we celebrate Chanukah and Judah Maccabee’s victory in re-dedicating the Temple. (History lesson: The Maccabees found only a small jug of oil, uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it contained enough oil for only one day, it miraculously lasted eight days). After delighting on latkes the first night of the holiday, this seventh night’s menu included Shiiatake Mushroom Fettucine with intoxicating Truffle Oil, creamy Burrata Cheese and Puréed Rutabaga with shallots. Chef Claudio’s recipes inspired this delicious fettucine while Martha Stewart Living provided a new twist on the root vegetables. The recipe specifies the addition of mascarpone cheese, however, I substituted a combination of cream cheese and sour cream. The fine food and wine for our meal were gathered from the wonderful Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and A.G. Ferrari. Zabaione – named “Chef Claudio’s second breakfast” – sweetened this celebration of victory and miracles!

Fish Tail

On an almost tropical evening,”the tail wagged the fish” at ChezHelvetica. Indeed, the deciding factor for our choice of entree was an alluring bottle of Donovan Parke Chardonnay. Mining the Epicurious archive, I unearthed the perfect Grilled Tuna Niçoise recipe – customized to the house pantry. Ingredients included emerald green haricot vert and fingerling potatoes from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, Campari tomatoes, arugula, hard boiled eggs, capers and Kalamata olives. Wild, coho salmon from Alaska (purchased at Safeway) replaced the tuna. The salad’s delectable herb dressing – roused by garlic and anchovies –  doubled as a dip for the rustic artisan baguette. Gelato – the quintessential warm weather dessert – topped with pomegranate seeds and balsamic vinegar –  concluded our special night.

All American with an Italian Accent

Benjamin Franklin must have originally written “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness through Grilling” in the Constitution and later changed it, the way he had replaced “subjects” with “citizens”. This dinner featured grilled salmon (beautiful wild salmon fillets from Costco), basted with Mostarda Di Anguria Bianca or White Watermelon Mostarda from Le Tamerici, a delicacy I had found at the Fancy Food Show. The salty-sweet-acid dynamics of plums and pesto, conjured by Ubuntu Chef Jeremy Fox, materialized in our Green Bean and Plum Salad. Delicate Italian green beans and sweet Tory Farms pluots from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market – and a parsley, almond pesto – indeed created a dynamic dish. The conclusion to our meal, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, pays tribute to a new American hero. A salute to Stephen Colbert and his AmeriCone Dream!

A Salute to Memorial Day

Our Memorial Day celebration embraced both the traditional significance of the day in acknowledging war veterans (in this case, the folded flag holding bullets fired at my father’s funeral) and the always fun summer barbecue with friends. Real Simple Magazine’s June feature on finger-licking fare inspired me to head to Marin Sun Farms at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market where I purchased baby back ribs. Using the classic barbecue sauce recipe in this issue, it was my first foray into making barbecue sauce. I tweaked it by adding some Worcestershire sauce.

A Caesar Salad recipe from Epicurious provided the perfect combination of delicate hearts of romaine (from Star Route Farms) and savory garlic croutons, a wonderful accompaniment to sweet corn. Vanilla ice cream with honey-poached nectarines and toasted coconut, crowned by a strawberry, was the dessert of choice, also adapted from Real Simple. Then there was the wine  brought by our friends from their well-stocked cellar …. all I can remember now is that it was wonderful. And there was a lot!