Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hello, Old Friend: Greens Restaurant, SF

Winter sampler plate at Greens

Foodie friends supplied with with long lists of the hottest San Francisco restaurants, That was all well and good, but I had to return to an old friend, Greens.

There is a reason this temple of vegetarian cuisine has been enchanting vegans, omnivores and meat and three lovers since 1979. The food is amazing.

Greens & related cookbooks, from my collection
Having only eaten here once, in the late 1980s, I was due for a repeat visit. We cycled past Greens on our way to a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and thanked the ride sharing apps that would later provide our transportation. The restaurant is past Ghiradheli Square, in Fort Mason.
Winter gratin, with sweet potato and butternut squash

We started with the winter sampler, which included lentils with feta, hummus, roasted cauliflower & carrots, pickled beets and muhammara. My husband said the lentils reminded him of something I make at home. I reminded him that I have a pile of Greens - related cookbooks.

Spinach and mushroom filo
Our friend agreed to share entrees, so we got three. It was hard to go wrong here. The butternut squash and sweet potato gratin had grilled polenta and a tomatillo sauce. Perfect for a winter night. Though it was 65 and sunny during the day.

We also shared the wild mushroom and spinach filo. There was a surprising bite of pistachio in the chickpeas. Well, maybe not surprising since it was listed on the menu. But you expect more chickpeas and then there's a nut. It was utterly delicious.

Greens pizza
The pizza with broccoli, feta and olives was ideal for sharing. But I probably could have eaten the whole thing.

Greens also makes a mean martini, with Botanist gin. The wine list, heavy on California wines, is reasonably priced.

I plan to return to California and Greens in less than 30 years. But if I do wait that long, I'm sure Greens will still be kicking it.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Local Foods: For Vegetarians, Vegans AND Meat Eaters

Looking for vegan food in Houston?
Great vegan food in Houston

Eating local can be great for a vegetarian. But what about when you are in Texas, land of the meat eater?

Great vegetarian food in Houston
List of farmers at Local Foods
We 'discovered' a local chain in Houston, Local Foods. This is one of a long line of upgraded fast casual places, where you order at a counter and your food is delivered.

But Local Foods outshines its competition. It offers inventive soups, sandwiches and salads that will please a wide variety of people. And it has local beer.

What it doesn't have is hot coffee.  We were in Houston during a spell of a cold rain, and the nitro cold brew on tap just wasn't appealing. But everything else was spot on.

The delicious sides at Local Foods
We had the garden sammie, with brussels sprouts, avocado, hummus and pickled onions. You get 2 sides with it. We chose beets and chickpeas with cauliflower.

The other great vegetarian choice was vegan meat balls, made from mushrooms and pecans. It had a spicy tomato sauce. With it we had Tuscan Kale salad and a squash said with figs and carrots.

Vegan 'meat' ball sub
My meat eating brothers-in-law raved about their roast beef with curried cauliflower and turkey confit with brie.

Next time I have to try the vegan gumbo and vegan taco salad.

And the Cavo last with pomegranate. And the dinner vegan cheese steak.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Over the Moon in Over-the-Rhine

B&A Street Kitchen
Breakfast quesadilla at B&A Street Kitchen

In the 35 plus years I've been visiting Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine has transformed from a place to be avoided to a must see.

Findlay Market is the center of this foodie destination, and hit quality restaurants keep popping up around it. A great place for brunch is B&A Street Kitchen. In fact, B&A is only open for breakfast and lunch.
B&A Street Kitchen
Hot sauce on the table 

What particularly appealed to me was the chorizo tofu on the menu. Instead of paying for breakfast meat but not ordering it, we could have a vegetarian substitute that was equally yummy.

B&A specializes in Southern and Mexican food. Which means I had to try something from each region. My husband I split a biscuit and breakfast quesadilla.

B&A Street Kitchen
Biscuit with chorizo tofu
At most Southern restaurants, biscuits are served with a meaty gravy. But B&A Street Kitchen has a vegetarian peppered milk gravy. And 2 kinds of pork gravy.

We had the huge biscuit with chorizo gravy. You can also have it with an egg.

On the side, we got creamy savory grits, made with milk and cheddar cheese. There were 2 kinds of hot sauce on the table, but the grits were so peppery that we didn't need much hot sauce. There are also sweet grits.

B&A Street Kitchen
The back room at B&A Street Kitchen
We gilded the lily with the breakfast quesadilla. It comes with either eggs or chorizo gravy, but we had both. It also had cheddar cheese. It came with sour cream and salsa. The medium red was quite spicy.

There are so many other things to try: a biscuit sandwich with caramelized onions and peppers, avocado and spinach; omelettes, burritos and pancakes. And avocado toast. This is just the breakfast menu.

My niece's first food was avocado
At lunch, there are salads and vegan chili. And soup.

It was unseasonably warm, so we had the cold brew. Delicious. There is also nitro cold brew, Mexican hot chocolate and craft sodas.

There are high chairs and a children's menu.

A Touch of Autonomy: Infiniti QX50

 Infiniti QX50
                    All smiles on the PCH with the Infiniti QX50

When a teenager first gets her driver's license, she celebrates her autonomy. Likewise, an aging parent or grandparent doesn't want to give up his license, or car, because of the loss of independence.

 Infiniti QX50
The Auto Hold button lets you take your foot off the brake
I was focused on autonomy when I drove the new Infiniti QX50, a compact SUV (or crossover, if you will) with Pro Pilot Assist.

 Infiniti QX50
Plenty of back seat room. And check out that quilted seat!
This semi autonomous system, an option in the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is like cruise control on steroids. It has intelligent cruise control, which adapts to the speed of traffic around you. You can set the length it keeps you behind other cars to one, two or three car lengths. Then there's direct adaptive steering and lane keep assist. Like other lane keep assist systems, it needs lane markers to work properly. But once it does, it keeps the QX50 on the straight and narrow.

But it's the steering that can take your breath away. You can take your hands off the steering wheel for 10 seconds - enough time to police a sibling spat in the back seat, or open a water bottle if you don't have a sport top.

 Infiniti QX50
Looking at the new La Peer hotel through the panoramic sunroof
After 10 seconds, the wheel vibrates, a haptic reminder to put your hands back on the steering wheel. If you ignore the warning, an alarm sounds. And if you ignore that, (I didn't) the car automatically slows down.

Luxury and comfort -head of the class

The leather seats are comfortable and you can set the driver's seat to automatically recall two settings. What a great feature for those who share driving!

The back seat is surprisingly roomy. No cramped knees if adults are in the back. And with the panoramic sunroof, there is no claustrophobia, either. The trunk space has more room than any other compact SUV in its class.

The fully loaded Infiniti QX50 I drove had 16 Bose speakers, and music sounded fantastic. There is no Apple CarPlay - yet - but it's easy enough to play your phone's music through Bluetooth, or listen to the Sirius XM radio.

Stop and Go from Malibu to West Hollywood

 Infiniti QX50
One of the 16 Bose speakers
Traffic in Los Angeles can be frustratingly dense. Likewise, traffic in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and any number of metropolitan areas. Another cool feature of the QX50 is the auto hold brake. When you set this, you can brake at a light and take your foot off the brake while you sit there.  Often after a long run, my leg cramps up when I drive. How lovely to be able to rest your leg, even momentarily.

Keeping an eye on fuel economy

Infiniti engineers developed a turbo charged variable combustion engine that gives the SUV power while keeping the vehicle fuel efficient. Expect about 27 miles per gallon, less if you chose the sport mode. The eco mode was fine for tooling along the Pacific Coast Highway, but in the windy canyon roads, the sport mode made turns more responsively. And more fun.
Luxury and style

Who is the  Infiniti QX50 for?

According to Infiniti execs, the small SUV was designed with families and empty nesters in mind. The QX50 starts at $37,545 and goes up to $61,995. For those well-heeled buyers, the fully loaded version has lots of luxury touches, like a soft touch ultra suede trim. But that trim, while sensors to the touch, looks lovely, it might not be the best choice for families with small children, who bring stickiness and grime everywhere. For that matter, shedding dogs would wreak havoc on the interior.

The Pro-Pliot assist
The quilted leather seats, on the other hand, make clean up easier. And the heated and cooled seats in the front make the ride ultra comfortable.

If you are one of the targeted empty nesters, you can easily bring your friends with you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Freshest Fish: Nobu Malibu

The amazing Nobu

When someone invites you to Nobu, the first thing you ask is how soon? Last week, I got to drive a 2019 Infiniti QX50 on the Pacific Coast Highway, with a lunch stop in Malibu.

Yellowtail sashimi
Normally, I don't each much raw fish. I made an exception when I traveled to Japan, and another for Nobu. This mecca of impeccably fresh fish attracts a fabulous crowd, from Hollywood celebs to those who feed the industry: producers, agents, directors. Writers, sadly, usually can't afford it.

The yellowtail sashimi with jalapeƱo is one of the signature dishes, and it was awesome. The thin slices of fish melted in your mouth, with a jolt form the pepper. The black cod miso, which is cooked, spawned a thousand imitators. The original has a deep flavor and was succulent.
Black cod miso in lettuce cups

The king crab tempura was another spectacular dish. There were micro greens on top and seaweed salad below. The trick was to get a bit of each in every bite.

Nobu's beachfront setting
Tirado 'cooked' in yuzu
Crab tempura
Another fish dish, tirado, had more yellowtail that was 'cooked' in yuzu, much like ceviche is cooked in lemon juice. It had cilantro, a controversial herb that divided our table. Cilantro doesn't taste like soap to me, but it's not my favorite flavor. Just a bit of it, though, made the fish shine. Unlike ceviche, this had no onion.

We also had a spicy raw tuna on top of crispy rice cakes, with avocado. This dish can also be made with just the avocado, a vegan option that was equally scrumptious. Edible flowers made the dish even more beautiful.
Spicy tuna on crispy rice cake

I was too full by the time the sushi, but everyone said it was the best they had ever had.

The relaxing setting
Perhaps I could have had some, but I had to try the dessert plate. Our sampler plate included chocolate spring rolls with a chocolate dipping sauce, a warm apple crisp, chocolate molten cake that made us swoon and a chocolate banana miso bar with hazelnuts.

Dessert plate
If you eschew fish, you can have soba noodles, shiitake salad, eggplant with miso and roasted cauliflower. There are also specialty meat dishes.

Nobu may have created an empire, but he deserves the accolades.
Oh, yes, and there was sushi

Thanks Infiniti for this unique opportunity.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

No Equal: the Peerless Kimpton

Kimpton Le Peer, where i stayed courtesy of Infinit
Outdoor restaurant at La Peer

For a certain type of traveler, Kimpton Hotels are ideal.

1. Love to bike? Kimpton Hotels have free bikes.
2. Traveling with a dog? All Kimpton Hotels are dog friendly.
3. Bringing the kids? Kimptons are also welcome children.
4. And if you like luxury, Kimpton has you covered. The hotels provide robes in every room, high thread count Frette linens, superb service..
Do you like to bike on vacation? Kimpton has you covered
Signature Kimpton bike

La Peer

I am lucky to be staying at La Peer Hotel, in West Hollywood, CA, courtesy of Infiniti. The boutique hotel has a lovely outdoor pool and an outdoor restaurant and bar. There is an indoor place to eat, too, if the weather doesn't cooperate. But it's 70 and sunny with the bluest sky. Just about perfect.

My room is a gigantic corner room with 2 queen beds, a tub and a stand alone shower.

Luxury shower at La Peer
My huge shower
Did I mention the daily happy hour, with free drinks? Or the morning coffee in the lobby? There is a compact fitness center just past the pool.

I hadn't stayed in a Kimpton since it was taken over by Starwood. But it seems just like the old Kimpton, minus the New York Times that is usually in the lobby.

There is a yoga mat in my room and eco friendly full bottles of shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom. Towels are thick and soft.
Do you like an outdoor bar?
The outdoor bar at La Peer

As a Kimpton rewards member, you still get to 'raid the minibar' and have a free snack. And the room has a mini fridge, stocked with drinks, but there's room for a water bottle or 2 of your own.

West Hollywood fun

Bike from La Peer to The Grove
The Grove, an outdoor mall
I took one of the bikes for a spin, and wandered around The Grove, one of the finest outdoor shopping malls. I biked on a bike lane along Santa Monica Boulevard, through Beverly Hills, and found cute restaurants, all with outdoor seating.

Right around the hotel, there are design shops and high end clothing boutiques. You can actually walk to these!

But I'll be driving a new Infiniti.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Blueprint for Success: Great Cocktails & Food at Blueprint

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Why are some bars always packed and others can't buy a customer?

Every bar has its own vibe, and Blueprint has hit the nail on the head with its chill, rather adult atmosphere. It has the requisite friendly bartenders and wait staff, craft, but not twee cocktails, and interesting small plates. Food has a local and sustainable bent. And there are lots of vegetarian choices.

Satan's Bell
This all translates to a busy, but not overwhelming crowd and a place you want to return to again and again.

Last time I was there, I tried Satan's Bell, which had gin, ancho chile liqueur, red bell pepper, lemon, passionfruit and orgeat. The drink was festive and refreshing. The spicy chile balanced the sweet fruit and the orgeat gave it richness.

The Doctor is in may not be what the medical profession suggests for a cold, but the gin, absinthe and maraschino work well together. Blueprint's attention to craft is evident in the homemade grenadine.

Mushroom bruschetta
The daily happy hour is a nice deal; a couple of cocktails, wines and beer on tap at a special low price, and $2 off the regular price on all cocktails. The drinks are generally about $11-$14, and happy hour drinks are the same size.

There are also a few plates of food at low prices.

The roasted Brussels sprouts are enlivened with pickled red onions, something I forget to do at home. So good. Both bruschetta are yummy; burrata with tomato and oyster mushroom with ricotta, cress and more pickled onions. And the bread is homemade.

The hummus plate comes with warm, homemade flatbread and good olives.

There are also salads; we had a winter version with pear and beets. And the whole artichoke is irresistible.

My meat eating friends love the pork butt sliders (on homemade buns, of course) and the bacon and Brussels sprouts pizza.

Basically, you can't go wrong.