30 January 2013

Elegant Greek dinner in San Francisco

I first started writing about the restaurants we visited in northern California several months ago, after returning from the second of our two trips. I wrote that my wife’s favorite meal was at La Mar on the Embarcadero. My favorite was at a reliable standby, actually not too far from the Embarcadero.

We’ve dined at Kokkari Estiatorio on previous visits to San Francisco. (Click here to read my first review.) When we travel to The City, it’s always a dilemma. Do we revisit a fantastic restaurant like Kokkari? Or do we sample some of the other fabulous restaurants? The best decision is to do a little of both. And since it had been quite a while since our last visit to Kokkari, we didn’t have to think about it long to decide it was time for a return.

There are so many delicious choices on Kokkari’s menu that it’s hard for two people to narrow it down to just a few items. So this time,we took a slightly different approach. DSC00281

We started out with a couple of appetizers (mezethes). One was kalamari (squid), grilled and stuffed with feta and served with fennel, orange, and black olives. It was much more nuanced and interesting than the standard fried calamari so commonly available. The second mezethe was called ‘kolokithokeftethes’ on the menu. It was a crispy zucchini cake served with cucumber and mint-yogurt dressing. Also very unique, light, and refreshing.

Then I did order an entrée. I had one of their fish specials – a whole, grilled dorado served with lemon, potatoes, olives, and fennel. It was delicious.

But Linda, unable to decide on an entrée, decided to get two more mezethes. One was ‘spanakotiropita’ or spinach pie, layers of filo, spinach, leeks, dill and feta. The other was ‘soutzoukakia’ which consisted of lamb meatballs, in a spicy tomato sauce with Greek yogurt. It was a great decision. Between all the dishes, we had a real variety of Greek delicacies.

We did split a dessert at the end. It was called ‘galaktoboureko’ and it was a custard in filo served with pistachio ice cream. An excellent ending to a delightful meal.

29 January 2013

Bistro des Copains, Occidental CA

Ok, so let’s rewind now to October. Linda and I spent a weekend in the Sonoma Valley wine country. We stayed at the Inn at Occidental, a very comfortable and accommodating bed and breakfast in the tiny village of Occidental. When we made our reservation, we asked to proprietors for a recommendation for dinner, and they suggested Bistro des Copains. They made a reservation for us.

So on our first night in town, we strolled the 2 blocks from the Inn to the Bistro. What a delight it was. The ambiance is very casual and relaxed.

The Bistro has a great menu. Lots of options for either a light meal (salads, soups, pizza), entrees, or a prix fixe dinner. We skipped the starter and just had entrees. My wife's steak fritte was delicious; the frittes were amazing. I had duck, and it was fabulous.

One of the most memorable things about the Bistro – it’s a great way to enjoy local wine. If you’ve spent a day visiting wineries in the area, they offer a special price on corkage fee for Sonoma wines. In our case, since we’d just arrived, we tried a local zinfandel off the menu. We liked it so much that we made a point of touring the winery two days later – Limerick Lane.

27 January 2013

The story so far …

Oh dear. It’s been a whole month since my last post. Sorry, but a lot’s happened since then.

I still haven’t finished blogging about some of the restaurants my wife and I visited in October and November in northern California. I will still finish those posts. (Fortunately, I have fairly good notes so can write reliable reviews.) I really intended to do a lot of that during New Years weekend. But work consumed much of the time. You may recall that Congress struggled all weekend to try to prevent the fiscal cliff from disrupting the economy. There were some very significant ag provisions that were under consideration. So while I wasn’t in the office, I was connected the whole weekend in an effort (ultimately a vain effort) to get a new farm bill included in the fiscal cliff package.

So, not only did I fail to get my blog updated before the end of the year, I also failed to achieve the legislative outcome that I wanted. Sigh.

The next couple of posts after this will cover the California restaurants that I wanted to review. But in this post, I want to quickly cover our trip to DC for the Inauguration of President Obama for his second term.

My wife and I traveled to DC on Friday before Inauguration Day. I think it had been four years, since Obama’s first Inauguration, since Linda had been to DC. I had several places that I wanted her to try. I showed her the menus online, and she picked the ones that sounded most interesting.DSC00292

So on Friday night, we joined friends at Café du Parc. Here’s the link to my previous post on this delightful French restaurant (click here.) We have a particularly interesting experience there. After we were seated, the server brought bread to the table and made a flourish of serving a Land O’Lakes product with the bread. A few minutes later, the manager came to our table and pointed out that they had provided a Land O’Lakes product. I hadn’t identified my self when I made the reservation through Open Table. So I can only assume that they looked at my Open Table reviews, found the link to my blog, and discovered that I work for Land O’Lakes.

It was a brilliant gesture. There was just one small hitch. The product they served was Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, not real Land O’Lakes butter. It’s a decent product. But I honestly would have preferred real butter, no matter what brand, to the spread.

Then on Saturday, we went to Bibiana. I wrote late last year that I wanted to take Linda to one of the fantastic Italian restaurants that I’ve been to in DC and demonstrate to her the qualitative difference between those restaurants and the Italian restaurants that we have in Minnesota. Our MN Italian restaurants are good. But they don’t achieve the same level of quality and creativity as the DC restaurants. She picked Bibiana, and it met all of my expectations.

Then on Sunday we went with a group of other Land O’Lakes staff to Jose Andres Zaytinya. DSC00324

On Monday, after the public swearing-in ceremony, we attended the Ag Gala. It was very nice, as it has been in previous years.

So 2013 got off to an exciting start, and I got to share some of my favorite DC restaurants with my wife.