For those city dwellers who only experience cheese coming from a deli fridge case, here is a working dairy not far from the beaten track where you can see the cows, take a tour of the dairy and bakery, and then buy the goods.
We bought some cheddar and one of the rindy-musty cheeses. The cheddar was the favorite, being tangy and sharp, with crystal crunchy bits in it that reminded us of Dubliner cheddar.
Cheese prices seemed to be a flat rate of $25/pound, an acceptable price for artisanal and extremely local products.
The dairy is easy to find, and once inside you won’t be overwhelmed by indecision because the variety of products available is kept at a minimum. There’s frozen grass-fed beef also available, and jars of nuts stored in honey. Without a tour, you can be in and out in less than 10 minutes, and if you’re not sure of what cheese or bread to buy, samples are provided.
My friend and I were on a slow meandering roadtrip to Frenchtown on a sunny autumn afternoon. A pitstop here provided the basics for a picnic snack and extras to take home. Very enjoyable.
Sandrine and I have been trying to catch up with each other more often. It’s been getting harder with changes in jobs, and her having kids. December and January were also bad due to recurring illnesses, we were both disappointed that she had to miss the Edible conference in late January from being sick or taking care of sick children.
So today: breakfast. She’d made warm baked granola with apricots, and a cinnamon swirled breakfast bread. And tea and coffee.
Everything was so good. The warm granola was a Sunset recipe, a new favorite of theirs. It’s not baked as part of the process of making dried granola, but baked so that it came out warm, soft, almost like a crumbly cake, and could be eaten on its own – which is how they eat it – or with a little cream – which is how I ate it.
The bread was likewise wonderful, sweet, but not overly sweet. And with a perfect swirl on cinnamon. She told me her secret to making a more robust vein of cinnamon, but I don’t recall it. Something about making a cinnamon paste. I’ll hit her up again when I’m trying the sticky pecan buns since my feedback on them was that the cinnamon stuffing wasn’t bold enough.
But about Sandrine’s bread. Henrik loved it. So did I.
If there’s a place one would expect to have specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, you expect them to be at a cheese shop, right? That’s right!
Well, I finally did it, I had their grilled cheese and ham for lunch. It was oozy, warm, delicious, and good to share alongside few other nibbles.
Other nibbles included a thick slice of pate de champagne and some mini ciabatta rolls, and a cup of C’est Cheese’s super yummy tomato soup.
I have been a big big fan of bread and pate, eaten with cornichons and little pickled onions ever since living in England and spending time with the Belgian. When we’d do travelling picnics, it would always include pate with cornichons. The grilled cheese sandwich came with one little cornichon, and none with the pate (since it’s sold as a regular market item), and it was so hard to ration that little pickle for the whole piece of pate. In fact, we didn’t. We ate about half the pate and took the rest home.
My favorite lunch item was the soup. I can throw together a grilled cheese sandwich relatively easily, but it’s not so easy to have homemade tomato soup, so I value this treat highly.
The whole meal’s about $20, feeding two. The big ticket item is the grilled cheese, coming in close to $10.
I think Kris and I had been talking about having dinner with her family for three years, and tonight we finally did it.
Her whole family is passionately engaged with food. Researching it, making it, writing about it, definitely eating it. Their kitchen is massive, with the largest center island/chopping board I’ve ever seen in a home. And the whole family contributes to the dinner process.
Shaun did the main dinner, making two of his favorites. First, pizza bread rolls. He made two kinds, one was vegetarian with lots of broccoli, the other was a sweet/spicy bbq chicken.
While waiting for dinner to bake, I browsed the kitchen, where a number of persimmons were hanging up to dry. This process is called hoshigaki, where persimmons are peeled, and gently massaged, resulting in a thick, chewy dried fruit covered in natural sugar crystals.
But back to dinner! I forgot to get a photo of the soup. This is also a specialty of Shaun’s, named Dada Soup. It’s made of ultra fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, pureed and run through a chinoise, resulting in a rich, nutritious and creamy soup, even though it’s completely vegan. His young daughter loves it, and this is critical, as she gets many servings of healthy fruits and vegetables from it. Tonight’s soup had a lot of beets and carrots in it, resulting in a deep velvety orange-red soup that might look like it had tomatoes and cream in it, but actually had none. It was really really good.
The pizza rolls…well, how can you go wrong with fresh bread out of the oven. We ate way more than we should have.
Nancy was in charge of dessert, and she made a delicious bread pudding. While dinner was being prepared, there was vanilla ice cream freshly churning, and we got our pudding a la mode.
Last but not least, a carefully pulled cafe latte from Shaun, using Blue Mountain Kona beans and a special pump espresso machine. There was even latte art.
I was so full, he understood that I wouldn’t be able to finish the cafe latte, but I was happy to have a go at it.
This family knows their shit! My gift to them was two year’s worth of Saveur magazine, which I hope they’ll enjoy reading as much as I did and maybe inspire them. They’re already the types to travel abroad to learn different culinary techniques.
Broder is a cute little Danish/skandinavian restaurant in the SE, and terribly popular. We came here to start off our day, and the wait for a table required much patience. Perhaps it was not the best idea to pitstop en route at Little T Baker, but Amy had such rave reviews for it, and it was just along the way that we had to stop. And there we ate the most luscious soft, butter and crusty baguette ever. After the biting through the crisp crust was melt-in-your mouth pillows of soft, lightly sour bread. Wow. But that’s not Broder. Let’s get back to Broder.
Now, who can resist a morning cup of coffee with such a kawaiii(!!) bottle of milk to go with? Not us. So charming we could pinch its cheeks.
The place remained busy for the whole time we dined there, and it wasn’t even at traditional peak hours. We were out just before noontime, as we had some beer, wine, and cheese tasting to do closer to the town center.
Broder (Clinton, SE)
I’m not Irish. I don’t expect anyone to wear red for Chinese New Year if they’re not Chinese. So what’s up with a threat of getting pinched for not wearing green.
I knew it would be best to avoid State Street and its CBD bars, but some friends did want to have a swift half somewhere. A pity Telegraph’s tasting room is more a weekend thing, but we made it work at Dutch Garden.
It was a great surprise to learn some of my bar enthusiast friends had never been there before. Friends that love an old school atmosphere at that. Dutch Garden has that in spades, being 50+ years old and those teensy little bar chairs and the corrugated metal roof that makes you feel like you’re kicking back in a garage.
Its patrons are fiercely devoted. No matter that they love German food, they love *Dutch Garden’s* German food and will hardly think to patronize this town’s only other German restaurant just a little ways down the road. It’s amusing, and a testament to how endearing Dutch Garden can be, but also a little disappointing. There is so little German food in Santa Barbara, why not spread the love around and keep more German restaurants in business. But I digress.
We went for a beer, to pay a very casual homage to St. Patrick, but more to enjoy a good beer. I had Belgian Piraat, a triple fermented ale. Potent, and flavorful.
I was with two vegetarians. Pescidarians, actually. You’d think this German restaurant would be the last place to provide vegetarian fare, but DG actually got back on my radar because another veggie friend considered it one of his favorite restaurants. There is always a fish dish available, but more simply, a basket of rye, a salad and a bowl of soup is a satisfactory meal and meat-free.
Tonight’s soup was carrot and almond. Oh dayum, it was really good. A fellow sitting next to me at the bar, a fiercely devoted type, said he loved German food and this was his favorite restaurant in town. Stated with friendly but strong conviction. He enjoyed the soup, and his serving was actually what put the rest of us over the edge and we ordered it.
Time for new sandwich bread. I made this loaf of roughly 3:1 all purpose flour to wheat flour. It’s great for grilled sandwiches at work.
I used the Bread Lab recipe.
Of course, a few slices had to be sampled while it was fresh and hot.
‘Allo, Gorgeous! I attended the soft opening for this new restaurant and bar. It’s in the space that was formerly Epiphany Restaurant, and is under the same ownership and management. I guess they decided to go in a different direction and name.
The folks are the same, but the menu is different. Sort of fancy traditional American mixed with California cuisine. It’s not just mac and cheese but truffle mac and cheese.
The soft opening was anything but! The doors opened at 6 and it was packed by 7. There was a good level of cougers and douchebags there, and HobNob appears to have anticipated that, and offer a signature drink called a Couger Cooler.
The guys at the bar, Andy and Ace, were kept on their toes with many many drink orders, they stayed organized and even added a little flourish here and there.
Diners were young and old alike, and lots of them. Maybe they were old loyals of Epiphany, maybe they were seeking out the newest venues in town. Both probably got what they wanted!
This was my second visit to Karim’s since word went out he’ll be retiring his restaurant at the end of March.
This time, it was two of us, which is what I prefer over a large group. Karim’s is a great place for a party and group environment, but when I want to concentrate on the Moroccan food, an early evening with just one friend is the way to go.
Many others are coming to Karim’s in the last days of the restaurant, hoping for a final feast; this is the only Moroccan food to be had in Santa Barbara. Other diners included Sonny and his family, who run Spice Avenue just around the corner on State Street. His family also owns Naan Stop, where I’d eaten lunch just earlier in the day. Sonny always remembers me, from over six years ago, when I first ate at Spice Avenue. After paying my bill, he came out to ask who in my group was from England. It was just me, an American, and Brett an Australian, sitting there. Sonny clarified: the bill was paid using an English bank card, whose was it? Well, that was me, from when I lived and worked in London. Sonny smiled and said he was from east London and was happy to meet someone from the area. In future visits, he would always say hi.
It starts with hand washing from the host, before diving into menus and appetizers.
Fifth course: Couscous with vegetables. Most don’t realize the couscous can be a completely stand-alone dish. It’s served just moments after the main dish comes to the table, and most think it’s just a side accompaniment, but in Morocco, this is a very traditional meal on its own. Generally served Fridays, the day of worship in Islam, and people have extra time during the mid-day break for prayers and a meal with the family. Couscous, when properly done, is a lengthy preparation with repeated steamings of the couscous, laying it out, mixing it, adding broth, adding the vegetables to the couscouserie throughout the process to ensure they finish cooking at the same time. I was lucky enough to spend a Friday afternoon in Morocco with a woman while she made the couscous. Wow, the time and care that went into it. It even has its own clay serving platter. So when the couscous comes out, don’t relagate it to the side as something worth dabbling into if there’s not enough other food to sate the appetite, it’s something to savor as well. And this time, it’s okay to use a spoon. Couscous is small!
Sixth course: assorted desserts and tea. The syrup cookies are good, but I am so full at this time I rarely eat more than half of one. Instead, I concentrate on the fruit basket piled high with apples, banana, strawberries, oranges and whole nuts. More often than not, this was how I wrapped up meals in Morocco. A little fruit and fiber feels better, too, than more cooked food after such an overwhelming feast. Karim’s normally serves the tea at this time, but really, you can have it any time. Tonight, I started having tea with the first course, and got a top up at the end as well. The tea is a combination of black gunpowder tea, fresh mint leaves and lots of sugar. LOTS of sugar. The tea here seems to be about half the amount of sugar of the tea drank in Morocco (which is also served with sugar on the side, that many use to make it even sweeter). No matter your tolerance level for sugar, the tea comes from a silver teapot and pour high above the cup, to areate the tea as it pours out.
Depending on timing, you may be pulled up to join the bellydancer. Early diners sometimes get away without dancing. Like us!
I had no background information on this restaurant inside the Paris Hotel and Casino, and low expectations for a place located so near the front door of a casino.
I was expecting high prices and mediocre food. So we ventured further into the casino, looking at restaurants and menus, all the way to Bally’s. That’s when we realized that the restaurant we were meant to go to was way back at the first place we looked, Mon Ami Gabi.
I love hanger steak, and it was on the menu for a mere $20. We went on a Friday night, no reservations, and were seated immediately with a choice of the patio or inside. We opted for inside, and were given seats right at the patio window. Best of both worlds, it turned out, because we had all the views of the patio and Bellagio fountains, and all the warmth of the interior.
We are not gut-buster buffet eaters. In fact, listening to some frantic gamblers that evening talk about how they stuffed themselves silly on a comped buffet turned us right off of trough feeding.
Loved the sauce, coupled with the thin, crisp fries that came with the steak. And I adored all that warm yummy yolk oozing into my frisee salad dressing.
Fresh, hot, crusty baguette and a pot of soft butter came to the table, along with a few mouthfuls of fine carrot salad. We didn’t need more bread, but it was so good we got a second baguette and used it to soak up the sauces of our two dishes.
But it wasn’t a perfect meal and here’s why. I love hanger steak. I love hanger steak even more when that one strand of fiber is quietly cut from the length of the steak before it’s cooked and becomes virtually impossible to remove without mincing the whole piece up. Floss is one item the TSA will still let me take on a plane, I’d don’t need it in my steak. Two quick slashes and it’s gone, it’s so easy and will vastly improve anyone’s enjoyment of the dish.
On short trips, I rarely frequent one place multiple times, but felt that a breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi would be good. It was good, and we sat outside this time in the sunshine, just as the Bellagio waters were springing into action.
I had the chocolate waffles, which were a sensible portion, and came with piles of whipped cream, chocolate sauce and jam. It was good, but I didn’t think I’d died and gone to heaven. Ted had the old standard of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and grain toast. It was a lot of food, we had to leave some of the potato and most of the toast behind.
This time, unfortunately, we were in a hurry, so the experience wasn’t as enjoyable. But even with more time to linger, we still would have preferred dinner there over breakfast. Of particular note in the breakfast was the bacon. Thick, streaky, but not overly fatty, flat. Like it had been roasted rather than fried. Yum.
For what it’s worth, Ibrahim was my dinner server, and Brenda was my breakfast. Thanks!
Photos by Ted Mills.
Mon Ami Gabi