Sure, other cities have big food and wine events such as the Miami Food & Wine Festival or the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, but San Francisco has the best one of them all - SF Chefs. Why? Because unlike the others that last a weekend or a few days, the SF Chefs has grown to cover weeks! There are over a month's worth of events that started in June and run all the way through the final, big weekend of August 3-4.

The events run the entire gamut from celebrity chef dinners, to chef competitions, classes on food artistry, and the hottest tickets in town - the Grand Tasting Tent events during the final weekend. Two years ago I was lucky enough to go to a couple of the daytime events (I still haven't been able to snag a tasting event, too poor). I went to a cooking demonstration with Daniel Scherotter, from the Italian restaurant Palio D'Asti. I was able to interview Scherotter afterwards. I was also able to attend an interesting class on Pairing Produce & Wine by Color. Even though I don't drink, I learned a bit and could taste the difference even on my very untrained tongue.

This year I've been able to snag a couple more classes that I'm looking forward to. On August 2nd I'll be going to is Channeling Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Scandinavian food is an upcoming trendy cuisine and includes a lot of fermented foods. Since I've been getting into fermenting things myself, it should be interesting. I hope there is some tasting to be had. The second class on August 3rd is Something Farmed, Something Foraged, Something New.  These days chefs need to know their ingredients intimately and that is especially true with the abundance in Northern California. Not only do chefs get friendly with their local farmers and suppliers, but they also go out and forage while hiking on their time off. Classes such as these cost $35, but you can get a 20% discount on all SF Chefs events if you are a VISA Signature card holder.   

SF Chefs supports the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation. The foundation grants financial scholarships to students from the Bay Area entering culinary and hospitality programs.

Repost from  8/17/10

GF Note: For those unfamiliar with my blog, I do not have any dietary reason that I need to eat gluten-free. I choose to bake gluten-free within my home because I have an interest in all the other types of grains and flours that have been used by cultures for centuries. Why is America so wheat focused? I figure I can get gluten filled products everywhere else outside my home.

This is one of the most successful gluten-free baking recipes I've done yet. The banana acts as the 'glue' to hold it together well without the gluten. You will not notice any difference from regular banana bread. Definitely give this recipe a try.

Gluten-free Banana Bread

2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c butter, melted
2 t vanilla
3 c gluten-free flour blend
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t xanthan gum
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c chocolate chips, optional

Grease bread pans and set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl mix together eggs, yogurt, banana, butter, and vanilla.
In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. Mix in chocolate chips if desired. Pour into pans and bake for 45-60 minutes, checking to make sure a tester draws out cleanly. For best results, let sit overnight for best flavor.

Today is Pie Party Day for a bunch of food bloggers and my contribution is a Paleo Pot Pie. My reasons for today's choice:
  • I'm frustrated again with looking heavy in pictures. I've decided to try the Paleo diet more seriously.
  • Paleo means no sugar and, even better, no sweets at all. So I'm opting for a savory pie.
  • Pot pies are a good use of leftover chicken.
In a bit of frustration, I'm also a bit tight on funds and it's only mid-month! (We State workers get paid monthly. It stinks.) So I am using what I have in the fridge in terms of veggies - sweet potato and celery. Feel free to swap out the veggies with whatever you have on hand. Good options: peas, onions, bamboo shoots, carrots, broccoli. Yes, these are not all traditional ingredients found in Thai cooking. You make do with what you have or like.

You may wonder why I would even bother putting a Thai curry into a pot pie. Why not? I wanted to do something new and different. 

Since this was my first time playing around with a paleo pie crust, it wasn't all that successful. Even searching on the internet  didn't pull up any great pie crusts, at least not for a savory pie. It's one thing to mash pie crust to form into a pie plate and then fill it, another to roll it out as a pie top. I tried my best to use traditional pie crust making steps but without grain flours.

Paleo Pot Pie - Thai Chicken

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, 1/2 inch cubes
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon xantham gum
4 tablespoons butter, cold
1/2 cup ice water

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, mix together the Thai curry paste and coconut milk until curry is incorporated. Add fish sauce, agave, and sweet potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine the curry mixture, chicken, and celery. Pour mixture into pie plate.

To make the crust, mix together the flours and xantham gum. Cut the butter into the flour until the flour is crumbly. Slowly add the water a bit at a time until the dough can hold together and be formed into a ball. Roll the dough out on a flat surface using a little added coconut flour to keep it from sticking.

Take the crust and piece it on top of the curry in the pie plate. Brush the crust with melted butter. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and serve.
It is the anniversary of my mother's death. I've decided that I will repeat this article each year because I think it is important. It was initially written back in 2005 after her stroke.

June 2012 Addition:  My father has recently had some serious surgeries. Thank goodness he has my new stepmother to be with him. The most recent was a back surgery and he has been in a rehab center since then because they won't let him go home until he can walk around well on his own.

My stepmom  told me last week that she knew his medications were not right. She's had to fight hard with the doctors and they finally changed them.  She says the change in my father is remarkable. In just four days he improved so much that they now can see him going home on Wednesday. Everyone remarks to her how different he is since the med change.

It just proves that it is important to have a health advocate, preferably someone who knows you really well like a family member or best friend. You might seem fine to the doctors and nurses, but they don't know your personality like friends and relatives do. Without my stepmom there to speak on his behalf, my dad could have been permanently stuck in a facility and a wheelchair. Instead, he is finally on his way to full recovery, walking, and looking forward to going home.


The new year was rough for my family. Along with the death of my last grandparent, my family was faced with the even bigger crisis of my 67 year old mother suffering a massive stroke on Christmas Eve. She is now paralyzed on her left side, can’t swallow, and can’t voluntarily move or talk. She is fully aware and can nod, but must be fed through a tube in her stomach. After a total of six weeks at UC Davis, she is now in a care/rehab facility back in Oregon. There were a lot of things leading up to this event that we now look back on with 20/20 hindsight. I feel the lessons learned are important for me to remember as I age and to share with everyone else.

Lesson 1: If you aren’t getting satisfactory results from your doctor, get a second opinion! My mother first showed signs of deteriorating health about three years ago. She was always complaining of being cold, was walking at a creeping pace, and had a lot of back pain. Over the last few years she was treated for arthritis, pneumonia, respiratory problems, etc. But nothing seemed to work. She had her primary care doctor and it seemed to me that he just kept trying to figure it out by trial and error.

So maybe your doctor has told you you need to change your diet. Or maybe you are just trying to cut back on red meat. This doesn't mean you have to give up sausage - those lovely, encased ground meats and spices that burst with flavor. There is an alternative using chicken - the Al Fresco All Natural line of sausages and meatballs.

They are named Al Fresco All Natural  for a reason...  

·         70% less fat and 30% less sodium than pork sausage
·         60% less fat and 40% less sodium than beef and pork meatballs
·         Gluten-free
·         Made with lean, skinless chicken meat and only the freshest herbs & spices
·         Absolutely no artificial ingredients
·         High in protein and low in carbohydrates

Giveaway at end of post.

Kitchen To Go line laid out

This week Raley's employees voted to go on strike. Contract discussions broke down because Raley's says they are struggling in a crowded grocery market and they need to make some hard cuts. That much is very true, the grocery market is becoming quite competitive. In just the last few years they have had to face even more competition as new groceries such as Sunflower and Fresh & Easy enter the fray. It's in times like these that the corporate home offices of such companies have to take a good, hard look at the marketplace. What is the marketplace like? Is it changing? Where do they fit in?

I got an interesting glimpse of that this week when I was invited to the U.S. headquarters of Fresh & Easy down in Los Angeles. They wanted to give bloggers a first peak at a new line of over 150 items that will debut next Wednesday - Kitchen To Go. Although tasting about 20 items was fun, what interested me the most is how they came to their decision to produce this line and what lengths they've gone to to do so.

The company has been doing a lot of market research looking at American eating habits and the role of food in our lives, families, and budget. Many of the things they repeated from their February kickoff event - millions of Americans don't know how to cook and even more don't think about what they are going to eat for dinner until an hour before or while they are cruising grocery aisle.

Enter the concept of the Meal Store and the Kitchen to Go product line. Talk about finding a niche in the grocery battlegrounds. Fresh & Easy wants to position themselves as a meal store where you can go in and put together a meal that is a better alternative than going through the drive-thru lane of the nearest fast food joint.

Kitchen to Go has four cuisines (American, Mexican, Italian, and Asian) broken down into bowls, appetizers, small entrees (2 people) to family entrees (4 people).  You can mix and match to your hearts content. You can also feel comfortable in knowing that Fresh & Easy never uses dyes or preservatives in their food. Each product is clearly labeled with serving size and calorie count per serving on the front. The prices range from $1.99 for a side on up to $9.99 for one of the more complex family entrees.

This led me to question production, transport, and shelf life. Fresh & Easy has a giant production facility in Riverside that has three sections - produce handling, meat handling, and the new kitchen facility for the production of all their meals. A store will send in an order of what they need. The produce and meat facilities send their items to the kitchens to produce the meals. The kitchen cooks fresh batches every day and then ships them out and within 24 hours you have the product on the shelves.

Venus is the tiny dot
There are many once in a lifetime events that are of our own doing - first steps, first child, first house. Then there are the once in a lifetime events that are of a historical nature, be they good or bad, that we get to experience just because of the time period we happen to live in - first moon walk, 9/11, first African American president.

Blogs are personal diaries of sorts and so I wanted to use this post to mark two such events that happened in the same week.

The first is signified by the photo above - the Venus eclipse of the sun that occurred yesterday, June 5, 2012, between about 3 and 7 p.m. PDT. I was traveling back from Los Angeles and really thought I wouldn't get to see it for myself. Besides, I didn't have the proper safety glasses to be gazing at the sun. I was waiting at my gate at LAX to see a gentleman setting up a telescope by the windows. He was sweating quite a bit since the sun was streaming in from that side. He then excitedly told everyone he had the eclipse in view if anyone wanted to see it. Talk about luck. The Venus eclipse, he said, happens in pairs and then doesn't happen again for another 113 years. The first part of the pair happened eight years ago. 

If you watch cable/satellite TV you can't go a day without stumbling upon a juicer infomercial. Whether it be Jack LaLanne's, Montel Williams', or some other brand, juicers are all the rage. In some cities, like New York, juice bars are slowly becoming as popular as coffee shops, sprouting out in every neighborhood. Many New Yorkers have switched from morning coffees to morning juices*.

Then in 2010 the movie Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead came out, won awards, and got people's attention. Joe Cross drank nothing but fresh veggie/fruit juices every day for 60 days, lost a ton of weight, and reversed his health problems. His message was that you can reboot your body's immune system and health with the huge doses of micronutrients coming from the juices of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Another indication of the growth of juicing is the fact that Starbucks has entered the game. Last year they bought Evolution Fresh for $30 million with plans to enter the juice bar business. They see the future - and the future is juicing.

It's not too hard to understand why juicing has taken off. There are several factors that I see. First is that we are becoming more and more interested in our food - where it comes from, how it's grown, whether it is good for us. We are buying more fresh produce directly from farmers at farmers markets. We ask if our food has been exposed to pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. We are understanding that processed foods have no nutritional value and that the obesity epidemic is killing the current generations in this country due to poor eating habits.

This leads to a desire to do better by increasing our vegetable and fruit intake. The new FDA recommends that half of our daily food intake be from fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, many of us are picky eaters when it comes to produce. Juicing is a quick way to do so. In one large glass of mixed vegetable juices we can down the equivalent of a giant bowl of vegetables or an entire day's requirement. It's definitely easier than trying to eat it all.

I was disappointed today because I missed the Filipino Festival. I just had too many other commitments to make it down there. In honor of the day I decided to make some lumpia - dessert lumpia.

Lumpia is the Filipino version of an eggroll. I prefer lumpia because they contain a mixture of meat and vegetables, whereas eggrolls generally only contain vegetables. My mother's lumpia had pork, shrimp, and veggies like cabbage and onion. I've had some versions that have mixed frozen vegetables (corn, peas, lima beans). I didn't care for that version.

When I was at Honolulu's food truck event, Eat the Street, I had a dessert lumpia from the Flipt Out truck. It made so much sense! Just put fruit in the middle!