The Good Witches Fly

Halloween at ChezHelvetica transformed Tricks and Treats with the Cava 5 (group of amazing friends) as the Good Witches. Magic filled the rooms with delicious food, wines, potions and creative ideas. Our spooky start – a special brew of Pomegranate (with seeds), Apple Cider, Ginger Beer and Prosecco along with Witch Rules (#3 If the pointy shoes fit get the matching hat and broom). Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Raisins and Bewitching Sand-Witches with Celery Broomsticks deepened the spell with witch hats adorning the Pumperknickel, Maille Dijon Mustard and Cheddar Cheese sandwiches. Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Parmesan Sauce then swooped in with Bewitched Chardonnay from Russian River Valley. A bubbly caldron of oil crackled with Sirloin Steak and Organic Chicken Breast cubes, with choice of Peanut Satay Sauce from Indonesia and BBQ Sauce dips. A Witches Hairball Salad of Carrots, Alfalfa Sprouts and Avocado sided the fondue as luscious Bewitched Pinot Noir and Wilson Tori Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley sent our brooms ever higher into the sky. Black Devil Woopie Pies (made with German Chocolate Cake and black food color with an orange-colored Marshmallow filling) miraculously placed the Good Witches on Cloud #9! Happy Halloween Indeed!


Graduation Eve

Congratulations Parents of the Grad! ChezHelvetica welcomed Sister and Brother-In-Law with a celebratory dinner before the weekend ceremonies at UC Berkeley. Martha Stewart Living’s Everyday Food pullout (stained with olive oil after four years of continuous use) delivered the commencement meal of Pasta, Tuna, Capers and Tomatoes. It was like confetti in a bowl! Onions and sweet Cherry Tomatoes, sautéed in Olive Oil, and a creamy Parmesan Cheese Sauce created a fragrant bath for the Penne, Capers and oil-packed Tuna while Lemon zest and juice heightened the flavors of this mouth-watering dish. Avocado Dip with Sweet Potato Multi-Grain Chips and Kalamata Olives accompanied our entrée.  The bouquet of ripe tropical and citrus fruits in Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s famed Marlborough region paired perfectly, offering a hint of the international travel on the horizon for our Grad. Finally, a towering, multi-layer Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry Cream-frosted Cake crowned this Cal celebration!

Mardi Gras Memories

MardiGrasThe ChezHelvetica Krewe celebrated “Fat Tuesday” in Carnaval style – beads, masks, Cajun Stew and all! The aroma of bayou bliss hadMardiGrasMask the table jumping with Red Beans, Rice, Busseto Herbes de Provence Salami (instead of sausage), Prawns, Red Onion, Garlic, Celery and a dash of Worschester Sauce. Memories of a visit to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World in New Orleans recalled the magical site where floats for the parade have been constructed for decades. Rancho Zabaco (reminded me of Zydeko) Zinfandel kept this parade moving to a fitting dessert, Imagine Chocolate Truffles (replete with liner notes) and Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice cream. Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler – Let the good times roll, as they say in the French Quarter!ImagineChocolate

Back to Back : Heart to Heart

ArugulaAbbyTableAs excitement mounts for Thanksgiving, ChezHelvetica welcomed amazing Mother, followed by incredible Sister. TurkeyMomA pre-holiday feast included traditional favorites – Roasted Turkey Breast, Yams and Dry-Fried Green Beans, with the vibrant addition of Kale with Pomegranate Dressing. Curly, purple Kale from Nuñez Farms met Pomegranate from Tory Farms, adorned with Champagne Vinegar, Shallot, Feta Cheese and beautiful deep purple Pomegranate seeds. Acacia Chardonnay from Carneros kicked off the meal; velvety Bogle Old-Vine Zinfandel paired with the decadent Caramel Mixed Nut Pie dessert. Luscious French Vanilla Ice Cream topped the Inzana Ranch Walnuts, Pecans, Almonds and Hazelnuts and rich Caramel Sauce. Then something new for guest #2: a Cornmeal Crust quiche (rather than bars) with savory Arugula, Onion, Garlic, sweet Flame Raisins and Pine Nuts mixed with Parmesan, Ricotta and Feta. The alluring fragrance of Cinnamon and Nutmeg instantly transported the Sisters to the Mediterranean. An aura of love CarmelNutPieand gratitude embraced both tables as we toasted our thanks to each other and to all that IS right in the world …


My World Cup Runneth Over

SunflowersThe ChezHelvetica World Cup proffers a new meaning to the storied tournament. Here, it is an international collaboration – a pairing of the best in food, wine and, for this Summer Celebration, Cheese and Chocolate. First up – Spain. Mont Summer tableMarcal Brut Cava Reserva from Catalunya delighted guests upon arrival, as did the sunshine and brilliant blue skies. Then the first course – sweet, refreshing Watermelon draped with savory Proscuitto. An intoxicating Chilled Spanish-Style Tomato Soup, accompanied by Marcona Almonds, Olives and a lovely Lioco Rosé from Mendocino County followed. (A note here, Watermelon+instead of using the called for Sherry Vinegar in the soup, ChezHelvetica substituted Balsamic Vinegar and Sherry). Next served, a Chicken Waldorf Salad bursting with Walnuts, Apples, Grapes, Raisins, Celery and Grilled Summer BuffetChicken on a bed of Organic Arugula – all drenched in a luscious Greek Yogurt and Mayonnaise Dressing. Now for the Cheese and Chocolate pairing! Inspired by an event at The Cheese School of San Francisco, four Cheeses (from the U.S., France, Germany and Italy) matched with four complementary Chocolates (from the U.S., France, Philippines and Vanuatu), as we happily quaffed Sphere Zinfandel from Lodi. Chicken WaldorfFinally, The Trophy: A Chiriboga Blue Cheesecake (made with Blue and Cream Cheeses, Orange and Lemon Zests, Vanilla, Sugar and Eggs in a Chocolate Wafer crust). The winning team? Five incredibly intelligent, creative women – now known as the Cava V!

Chiriboga cheesecake

What a Fool!

Lest you think this is about a jester, harlequin or someone with poor judgement, ChezHelvetica presents the food fool. From mid-17th century England, desserts with fruit were so named Fool. Similar to a Trifle, the original “Foole” consisted of custard and stewed fruit. Today’s recipes most often include whipped cream as this Blackberry Fool from Martha Stewart Living. The incredible Blackberries from Florin Gardens provided the inspiration for this delicious dessert and a Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread. By adding a half cup of the Berries to the mixture of Whole Wheat Flour, Bananas, Honey, Eggs and Roasted Walnuts and then crowning the whole loaf with a half cup more, the angels were singing indeed!

Roses, Risotto & More

The quiet pleasure of snipping the season’s first Sterling Roses … the joy of having them grace the table … the all-out excitement of celebrating Spring with new recipes at ChezHelvetica. An alternative preparation for much-loved Risotto beckoned in Martha Stewart Living with Baked Risotto with Fines Herbes and Lemon. Using Leeks, Parsley and Green Onion from the VAMC Farmers’ Market and Tarragon from the ChezHelvetica deck garden, and Arborio Rice with Wine, Chicken Broth, Lemon Zest and Parmesan Cheese, a delicious, creamy Risotto emerged (with a little stirring) from the Viking oven. Caesar Salad accompanied the baked beauty, as renowned Simi Winery Chardonnay elevated this evening’s Spring celebration. Days later, Coconut-Crusted Shrimp (a recipe from Martha’s Everyday Food insert) followed as the latest experiment, with wonderful flavors of Coconut, Dijon Mustard, Curry Powder and mouth-watering Gulf Prawns. With a bed of Couscous and Roasted Broccolli, dinner was on the table. Happily, the bloom is on the Rose and on the HomeChef!

A SweeTart Buffet

Relaxed summer entertaining suggestions from Martha Stewart Living’s July issue put ChezHelvetica ahead of the game for this special mid-June buffet. Bursting with flavor, a Mint Pistachio-Pecorino Pesto doused assorted Crudites alongside a Spicy Three-Cheese Dip, sharpened with horseradish, cayenne and worcesteshire. Scrumptious Shrimp Rolls on grilled hot dog buns delighted guests with their lemon, tarragon and scallion accents; the excitement heightened further by the accompanying Acacia Chardonnay. For dessert, a delicious Frangipane Tart made with Raspberries, Tory Farms wind-swept Apricots and sweet almond filling brought smiles to our faces. The simple pleasures of summer!

A Spring Sunday Supper

With the happy lightness and warmth of Spring, a casual Sunday supper delighted all at ChezHelvetica this evening. Grilled Portabello Mushrooms (brushed with minced Garlic, Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil) with Grilled Onions and Cheddar Cheese topped LaBrea Multi-Grain bread for an easy-to-eat entree, accompanied by roasted yellow, red and purple Potatoes accented with Rosemary. Our salad boasted the “queen of vegetables” – Endive (a member of the chicory family) and Pink Grapefruit, Avocado and Walnuts, dressed in a luscious Honey, Citrus dressing. Thanks to a recipe from Martha Stewart Living, our delicious dessert featured Meyer Lemons in a heavenly Lemon Custard Cake crowned with fresh Strawberries. Celebrating the present with loved ones!

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!