Jul 29, 2009

Chocolate Brownies

It's been a while since I've had a real chocolate craving. When it gets warm out around here I revel in it and tend to focus on fruit and sorbet as my sweet treats. Needless to say, for the past couple weeks the last thing on my mind was chocolate. Then the fog came back, not bad, but lately it's been foggy in the morning and stays somewhat dreary until the the sun finally shines though about mid-day. After a couple days of fog filled mornings my urge to bake something chocolately delicious suddenly returned.

This week I turned to brownies to satisfy this chocolate craving. I think brownies can be tricky. I like them chewy but not cakey. I don't want them too sweet, but they must be full of that rich chocolate taste. Doing my research about the brownie I learned a couple essentials; 1) many recipes add a touch of coffee or espresso powder to help tone down the sweetness (who knew), and 2) in order to get just the right chewyness they must be pulled out of the oven when there is a bit of oozy crumb still on the knife (or toothpick) - otherwise you'll have chocolate brownie cake.

Putting my new knowledge to use, and combining a couple favorite recipes, these chocolate brownies emerged. And they put those cakey dry types to shame. Moist, chewy, and dense with rich chocolate, its hard to stop taking little nibbles of them.

An old friend recently sent me a recipe for beet brownies (not joking). Unfortunately I completely forgot about it this week. I'm looking forward to trying it out the next time I need to quench my chocolate brownie thirst...stay tuned.

Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Baked

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder*
11 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (60-72% cocoa)**
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons brewed coffee
1 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature (important)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set the rack used to bake the brownies in the center of the oven. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour salt, and cocoa powder.

Put the chocolate, butter, and brewed coffee in a large glass bowl and set over a saucepan of slightly boiling water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then take the bowl off the heat, mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mix and whisk until combined. Then add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir in with a wooden spoon or spatula. Careful not to overbeat the batter at this point (no cakey brownies wanted).

Sprinkle the flour mix over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mix until just a bit of the flour mix is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Start checking the brownies at 20 minutes, check every couple minutes until a knife inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a little oozy crumb on it. Let the brownies cool, then cut and serve.

These keep in an air-tight container (or covered with plastic wrap) for about 4 days.

Serving: makes 1 9 x 13 inch pan of 1 inch thick brownies.

Local Ingredients:
Butter from Clover Organic Farms, and Eggs from Glaum's Organic

Alison's Notes:
*I used Green & Black's Organic Cocoa Powder
**I used Valrhona Dark Bittersweet Chocolate with 71% Cocoa

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 27, 2009

Grilled Chicken Salad

This chicken salad turned out to be pretty easy to pull together and it was flavorful with a slight Mexican flare. It was also quite light, and the spice was fairly mild. I used to be pretty wimpy when it came to spicy food, but slowly I've been building up my tolerance and am actually beginning to enjoy a little extra kick.

That being said, if something is too spicy for me then it is hard to enjoy, and if that's the case then really there is no point to making the dish. So if you can't handle much spice I would cut back on the jalepeno and possibly the chile powder. I learned once that when adding spice to a dish one should add it slowly, to ensure that it is not too much for your tastes. I would recommend trying this method as well if you are adverse to any heat.

Once again the greens from the garden have gotten out of hand. I'm not sure if we planted to many or I'm just not paying enough attention to them. Either way, Matt and I enjoyed this chicken salad over a bed of greens with lightly grilled quesadillas full of cheddar cheese and fresh avocado slices on the side. However I see this dish as quite versatile. Once the cooked chicken, vegetables, and dressing is mixed up I can imagine it in a wrap for a quick lunch or dinner, or possibly over a bed of rice with beans on the side.

Grilled Chicken Salad
Adapted from Pure Flavor

2 large chicken breasts (4 cups, cubed)
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce

2 large ears, yellow corn, kernels removed (about 1 1/2 cups)*
1 large red pepper, diced
4 green onions, finely diced, and slightly roasted
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced

1 large handful of salad greens per serving (any mild flavored leafy green lettuce will work nicely)

About an hour prior to cooking, place the two chicken breasts in a small bowl and cover with lemon juice, pepper, and cumin. Press the spices into the chicken, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use. In the pictures here the chicken was grilled, and then cubed for the salad. If a grill isn't an option, pan fry the chicken in a bit of oil until done and cube.

While the chicken is cooking prepare the dressing and the vegetables. For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Set aside.

To prepare the vegetables combine the corn, bell pepper, roasted green onions, and peppers in a small bowl.

Once the chicken is cooked and cubed, add it and the prepared vegetables to the dressing. Stir well to coat and mix. Wash and tear the salad greens into edible sized pieces. Lay out the greens on a plate and cover with the chicken salad mix. Serve.

Local Ingredients:
Corn, bell peppers, green onions, and jalapeno peppers are all available at the farmers markets in Nortnern California right now.

Alison's Notes:
*When I made this I used corn kernels from earlier in the summer which I froze just before leaving on vacation. To prepare them for this salad I put the frozen kernels in a small fry pan until the water was mostly cooked out and they were warmed throughly. Fresh corn is going to taste the best, but if you can't find it in your area right now, frozen is the next best option.

Serves 4 for as a main dish, probably with leftovers.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 23, 2009

Community: Building Local Food Communities

(my neighbor's lemon tree)

Recently I've been introduced to a couple organizations that are helping to build local food communities by connecting neighbors with excess produce. I love reading about these kinds of groups and the individuals that get them started. I feel like a student with much to learn. One of my goals is to learn more about food communities such as these around the world in hopes of both being a part of them and possibly one day starting one.

These two organizations help organize an exchange of excess produce by using the internet to connect the front and backyards of neighbors. By creating a network of people who have excess produce in their yard or garden that can be traded for the excess from someone else, the community grows.

VeggieTrader - your place to trade, buy, or sell local homegrown produce. On this site you can sign up and then type in your zip code to find other's offering produce in your area. And if you have goods to offer you can post those here as well. It is not strictly barter as you might buy from or sell to others but it connects you to more local resources for food.

ForageOakland - a local resource for the Oakland area, however there are links to foraging organizations in other parts of California, Oregon, Canada, and the UK. This organization creates a barter system, for example: I might use some of your excess figs now and bring you some of my oranges later.

I've lived in my neighborhood for about a year now and as the seasons have changed I've been lucky enough to be offered lemons, apples, berries, and lavender from different neighbors abundance. Each time I'm astonished and my heart warms at the thought that even in this urban maze there is room to be so neighborly.

If you have an individual or organization in your area creating local food communities I'd love to hear about them.

See you tomorrow with a new recipe.

Jul 22, 2009

Peach Galette

I know, I know...your probably tired of reading about peaches from me. And one would think that I would be tired of talking about and cooking with them. But no, I found myself a bit sad yesterday as I pulled the last peach from our peach picking extravaganza out of the fridge. Over the weekend, when I still had a bowl of them on the counter I decided to make this Peach Galette.

I've never made a galette before, and there are no pictures in the cook book I used, so I was pulling from memories to decipher exactly how it was supposed to turn out. Later in the weekend, after fully enjoying this dessert, I looked it up in my ever faithful Food Lover's Companion. I learned that a galette, hailing from France, is a round flat cake made of flaky-pastry dough, and can be topped with fruit, jam, nuts, meat, or cheese. Other galettes I found looked like this, and this.

All in all I was pretty happy with the look and much more importantly the taste of my little galette. Also I liked it for its similarities to pie, but much more free form, and easy to pull together. The crust turned out nice and flaky but substantial, and the filling was pure comfort food, soft bits of peach with an essence of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Peach Galette
Adapted from Cooking Fresh from the Bay Area

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cane sugar (or white sugar)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup cold whole milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

6 peaches, peeled and cut into slices or chopped*
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Blend flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. With a pastry knife or two knives, cut the butter into flour, until the mixture resembles a course meal. Leaving some butter chunks about the size of peas. In a separate small bowl add the milk to the vinegar, and stir briskly. Sprinkle over the flour mixture. Work the liquid into the mix using your fingers to mash, turn, and lift until it forms a ball of dough.

On a lightly floured surface, gently press the ball into a flat disk, and using a rolling pin, roll it out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. At this point you could trim it into a circle (using a plate as your guide) or leave it as is to have a little more dough to cover the filling in the middle. Prick the pastry in several places with a fork and set it to chill on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

To prepare the filling, peel and cut the peaches and place in a strainer over a bowl to let the excess juices drain. In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Discard the juice and place the cut peaches and and flour mixture into a bowl, toss carefully until the peaches are fully coated.

Spoon the peaches into the center of the dough round. Fold the edges up to partially enclose the filling. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, covered with plastic wrap.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden brown. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Local Ingredients:
Peaches from Peter Wolfe Ranch, also available at farmer's markets right now in Northern California. Butter from Clover Organic Farms, and milk from Straus Family Creamery.

Alison's Notes:
*Before I started canning last week my Aunt turned me on to an easy trick for peeling peaches. Boil a pot of water and then drop the peaches into the boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon put them in a bowl and rinse under cold water to cool. The skin just slides right off.

This galette can easily be pre-made and stored, to be baked later. I made mine in the morning then wrapped it up well in plastic wrap for several hours before baking it fresh at a friends BBQ later that evening.

Serves 8 easily as a dessert.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 20, 2009

Summer Vegetables with Sausage and Pasta

This summer I have found myself really branching out in my cooking. I know this is partly due to starting this blog, however, it is also partly out of sheer necessity to consume all of the lovely vegetables that are coming from my garden. I find myself traveling less to the farmers market and more to my deck to see what is ready to be eaten each day.

Even if you don't have the space for a garden, a few herbs in a pot on the kitchen counter would get you started in the direction of growing your own. I find both the thrill of growing something myself, and the ease (along with cost savings) of just pulling a few leaves off the plant to throw in a dish totally worth the bit of effort it takes.

In this easy pasta dish the vegetables really shine. I cooked them in just a bit of oil, shallot, and garlic. Nothing that would over power the different flavors of each vegetable. I also enjoyed the fresh herbs here. The basil and parsley add a nice layer of flavor that I am learning how to use and appreciate.

Recipe for Summer Vegetables with Sausage and Pasta

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
3 summer squash, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 sweet italian sausages, casings removed
handful of fresh basil, chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
fresh mozzarella cheese (optional)
salt and pepper

1 large handful of dried pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti, however next time I think I'll try angel hair pasta as I think it will compliment the thickly-cut vegetables better)

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a sauce pan and add the diced shallot and garlic. Stir until soft. Add the squash, bell pepper, tomatoes and dried oregano to the pan and stir in with the oil, shallot and garlic. After 5-10 minutes, when the vegetables are just turning soft, scoop everything into a bowl.

Using the same pan as for the vegetables, cook the sausage throughly, breaking it up into bite sized pieces as it cooks. While the sausage is cooking, boil salted water for the pasta (approximately 5 quarts of water for 1 pound of pasta). Cook chosen pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.

Once the sausage has cooked through add the vegetables back into the pan and stir well. Add the chopped basil and parsley, give a quick stir and it is ready to serve.

Place pasta on a plate, ladle on the vegetable / sausage sauce, sprinkle with fresh grated mozzarella. Serve with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

Local Ingredients:
Summer squash, tomatoes, bell pepper's, garlic, basil and parsley are all over the farmer's markets and backyard gardens right now in Northern California.

Alison's Notes:
Other vegetables could easily be substituted for what I used here depending on the season. The sausage (and cheese) could also be omitted for a vegetarian or vegan version of this simple dish.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 15, 2009

Community: Pick Your Own Peaches

Last weekend Matt, myself and our friend Samantha piled into the car to head east in search of a farm. Well actually an orchard, filled with peaches. Wanting to check out pick your own farms, and looking for good peaches, I did a bit of research on PickYourOwn, a website that has a list of farms around the US and few other countries where you can go and pick the produce yourself. Scrolling through the list for Northern California I found Peter Wolfe Ranch in Brentwood, CA (about an hour east of San Francisco). Peter Wolfe Ranch produces apricots, peaches, cherries, citrus, honey, plums, tomatoes, and loquats. The produce is available at different times throughout the summer at their locations around Brentwood, both picked and pick your own.

We drove up to the orchard surrounded by little farm houses and a hand painted sign directed us into the sea of trees. Once parked we were told to the left were white peaches and to the right Suncrest yellows.

I was in heaven as I explored the orchard, smelling every peach as I put it in my bucket, rubbing their little fuzzy skin in my hands. After an hour or so, with buckets filled to the brim and having sampled as many as we could muster, we emerged. Everything was weighed and packed up in boxes and just like that we were done, driving home, still mesmerized by the experience.

Later that afternoon as I started to lay the peaches out I began to realize just how many Matt and I had picked. Pulling the receipt out of my pocket I was shocked to see that exactly 50 pounds of peaches, 47 pounds of yellow and 3 pounds of white, were now sitting in my house.

After the shock wore off, and after a couple phone calls to my mom and aunt who have both canned and made jam, I was armed with a mission. I pulled about 10 pounds out for us to eat and give to neighbors, and the rest were made into peach butter, peach jam and canned peaches. Haha - I say that like it happened in a snap. Not exactly. The rest of Saturday, all day Sunday, and Monday evening were spent washing, chopping, and boiling peaches. A few trips to the store and a couple phone calls later and I have 27 jars of peach yumminess.

I just checked the ranch's website again and it looks like plums will be ripe and ready to be picked soon. I can't wait.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 14, 2009


Looking at this photo you might ask, where are the plums? Well I have to admit, there aren't any. Usually I make this plumble, aka "Plum and Peach Crisp" with a mix of peaches and plums, however over the weekend I went peach picking and came home with 50 pounds of peaches. Crazy, I know! But you must cut me a little slack, when you are out in the orchard among hundreds of peaches two little buckets doesn't seem like much. Until you get home...then you would be wrong. Once the peaches got home and were laid out in the kitchen, and dining room, and laundry. Then and only then did two buckets seem like a lot of peaches. More about peach picking and what I did with all 50 pounds tomorrow.

Plumble, a term Matt coined after this dessert became a regular summer treat, is one of my favorites. The crisp is hearty but not too sweet, and healthier than most using just a little butter and adding yogurt to keep things moist. Also it will keep for several days in the fridge and stay "crisp", which is nice. I say this is a dessert but when its in the house I usually have it for breakfast too.

Plumble (Plum and Peach Crisp)
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 pound ripe peaches (I used 2 pounds of peaches this time)
1 pound ripe plums
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
two pinches of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees.

To prepare the fruit cut the peaches and plums into about 1-inch pieces. Place the chopped fruit in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate small bowl whisk together the 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle over the fruit and toss well. Transfer the fruit to a pie dish or 8x8 square baking dish.

For the crisp combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Spoon the crumble evenly over the fruit mix.

Place the baking dish in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden. Sprinkle a bit more sugar on top as it comes out of the oven and grate a bit of lemon zest on top (optional). Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Local Ingredients:
Peaches and plums are in season in Northern California right now.
Butter from Clover Organic Farms

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 9, 2009

blt salad

After a week on the road I came home to a load of greens in the garden just waiting to picked. So after a quick trip to the grocery on Tuesday to get some additional essentials, I've been making salads all week. I have to admit, all this salad eating is a bit out of character for me. I think the difference this year is partially that I'm growing the greens (I still can't get over how cool this is), and that I'm expanding my salad making recipes. No more lettuce with chopped carrots and a few tomatoes for me. I have branched out in my salad fare, and am loving every minute of it.

This BLT Salad came together easily, used a ton of greens (this could be modified depending on your preferences), and was nice and light at the end of a warm summer day.

BLT Salad
Adapted from Food & Wine

Three 3/4-inch-thick slices of rustic bread, cubed (4 cups)*
1/4 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1/2 small shallot, coarsely chopped
Fresh pepper

4 thick slices of bacon, broken into edible bits
5 cups torn lettuce (approximately 1 head of lettuce)**
1 cup chopped red cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped yellow sweet tomatoes
Grated hard ricotta, parmesan or other hard cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 F. Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the bread cubes are dry and slightly crunchy.

For the dressing combine the chopped basil, olive oil, Champagne vinegar and chopped shallot in a small bowl and mix well. Season with pepper to taste (I would usually add salt to a dressing but the bacon provided enough salt for my taste in this salad.)

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Transfer the bacon to towels and let drain.

In a large bowl, toss the toasted bread cubes with the bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. Add the basil dressing, toss the salad until evenly coated and serve. Pass grated cheese at the table if desired.

Local Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Rustic Bread from The Bread Workshop in Berkeley
Basil and lettuce greens from the garden
Red and Yellow tomatoes from California

Alison's Notes:
*I used a whole wheat loaf but any rustic white or whole wheat bread would work.
**I used a combination of butter lettuce, winter density, and kale, however the original recipe calls for 1 head of butter lettuce.
***For a vegan or vegetarian version of this salad simply take out the bacon. Either tofu or tempeh might be nice substitutes.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 7, 2009

little chocolate cupcakes

My apologies for being a bit absent lately. Matt and I took a wonderful road trip last week through Colorado and Utah and got back late Sunday after a long 14 hour drive from just outside of Salt Lake City.

The trip was fantastic, full of visits to family and friends. We hiked almost every day, spent an afternoon at Glenwood Hot Springs, and saw an amazing fireworks display surrounded by mountains in Utah. I'm still sorting through all of our photo's but the scenery was spectacular and inspirational. I'll be sure to share some of them with you once I've emerged from the pile of stuff to do that is always awaiting after a vacation.

A week before our trip we had a little birthday bash to celebrate my 30th. I had a blast pulling together a menu and cooking for a wonderful group of friends that came over to celebrate with me. Instead of a cake this year I decided to make mini-cupcakes. I'm a huge fan of cupcakes! I love how easy they are to make and how, especially with the mini-cakes, I feel like I can have a couple and not worry too much about it.

These little cakes were delicious. Perfectly moist and with an excellent chocolate flavor that everyone seemed to love. So much so that by the end of the night they were all gone, with only a few stray wrappers left in their place.

Recipe for Little Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated March 1st 2005 edition

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup high quality cocoa*
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sour cream

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini-muffin** pan with baking cup liners.

Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk to combine (alternatively heat in the microwave and whisk to combine). Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

In another medium sized bowl whisk eggs; add sugar, vanilla and salt until fully incorporated. Now add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until well combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mix and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until a skewer inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean, approximately 18 to 20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

To frost I used a classic vanilla buttercream frosting.

Local Ingredients:
When it comes to baking desserts I am still working out the details of finding local ingredients, especially the basics like chocolate, flour and sugar. I do source butter from Clover Organic Farms, a Northern California dairy, and I get my eggs from Glaum's Organic at the farmer's market.

I'm currently researching other local ingredients I can use in baking. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Alison's Notes:
*I used Green & Black's Organic Cocoa Powder, a high quality cocoa made with Fair Trade cocoa beans.

**Originally this recipe was for regular sized cupcakes, however I tend to like mini-cupcakes for reasons explained above. The recipe made 24 mini-cupcakes and should make 12 regular size cakes.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

Jul 2, 2009

Community: Wood Tavern

(Image: Wood Tavern)

A couple weeks ago was Matt and my 3 year anniversary. It's crazy how fast time fly's. I am amazed how much has changed in just three years, and how we learn more about each other every day.

To celebrate this year we decided to check out a restaurant in our neighborhood, Wood Tavern. This place is always busy when we walk by, from lunch through to the late night crowd. The first thing we noticed when we walked in was that everyone checking in around us seemed to know the host, or someone else at the restaurant. Is this the neighborhood place to go?

When making the reservation on Open Table I requested the chef's table, not knowing if there was one. I love watching people cook. Well, there is a chef's table and its the best seat in the house as far as I can tell. At this table you are propped up at a bar right in front of the main grill with one chef which sent out both firsts and main dishes consistently throughout the night. Also, you can look over and see the salads and desserts being put together and you have a slight view of the third chef doing more main dishes. I was in heaven.

Now to the food. Yum!!! Everything was very good. We had gnocchi with english peas, and bits of pancetta. A three bean salad with very fresh ricotta and hazelnuts, an excellent flavor combination. For our main dish we shared the steak and frites. It had a good flavor, and a mountain of fries. When we go back I might try the chicken or possibly the pork chop, both were coming out looking very good. Finally we split a root beer float. Taking our extra large spoons to the ice cream and slurping out the last of the root beer was a fun way to end the evening.

I was so bummed that I forgot my camera to take more photos of the food. So if your in the area check it out yourself, and let me know what you think.