Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dining in San Diego

Photo © Lori Korleski Richardson

Alexander's (3391 30th St., San Diego) manages to look cozy even with an all-white interior. Or maybe it was we who were cozy, seated six to a corner booth more suited for four. Because of the squeeze, they offered us two free appetizers.
We decided on the grilled salmon and baked brie cheese, topped with pesto and sun dried tomatoes, served with garlic bread ($12.25) and the ensalada caprese: fresh mozzarella layered with beefsteak tomatoes and basil, with extra virgin olive oil and oregano ($9.25). Both were exceedingly well-prepared and delicious.
The pastas run from $10.50 to $16.50 and the portions are huge. The pizzas, said to be among the best in town, are pricey - $14 to $21.50 for 13-inch pies. The entrees run from $20.25 for the chicken dishes to $26.25 for the filet mignon and garlic shrimp; the fish for the night was halibut and was cooked to perfection. The desserts all looked great, but only one among us felt like he had any room left after the main course. The waiter thoughtfully brought spoons for all of us, however, and we all had at least a bite of the apple pie and the smooth housemade vanilla ice cream.
The bustling place, the frenetic pace, and the attentiveness of Alexander to our dishes made the somewhat scattered and inconsistent service seem like more of a distraction than a major annoyance.

Friday, July 17, 2009

O, that's what 'organic' stands for

With "Food Inc." opening, a food safety overhaul being discussed by Congress and food costs soaring beyond many strapped budgets, you might be wondering if organic foods are something only the rich can afford. I think it's a matter of priorities; if we're truly committed to economic justice, we do need to pay more for food. That said, we also need to shop smarter so that our food dollars help out farmers directly. Packaged foods are convenient, but they also come at a cost, and often benefit corporations that do not have our best interests at heart.

Just what does "organic" mean on packaging?
  • When it says "100% organic," a product must display an ingredient list, the name and address of the handler of the finished product, and the name and seal of the organic certifier. Chemicals, additives, synthetics, pesticides or genetically engineered substances are not permitted in these products.
  • Foods labeled "USDA organic" must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. The remaining 5% nonorganic ingredients could include additives or synthetics if they are on an approved list. The label must bear the name of the organic certifier and a list that identifies the organic, as well as the nonorganic, ingredients the product contains.
  • Products labeled "Made with Organic" must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, and a list identifying both organic and nonorganic ingredients must appear on the label. Also, the name of the organic certifier must be included. When products have less than 70 percent organic ingredients, the word "organic" may not appear on the packaging or the display panel. However, an organic claim is permitted on the ingredient label.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A taste of California

I'm in Anaheim this week, at the General Convention of the National Episcopal Church. One of the bishop's wives passed along this recipe that was in the welcoming packet the spouses received from the Diocese of Los Angeles. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe when I get back to my grill.

California Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced red bell peppers
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
2 (4-inchx6-inch) focaccia bread, split horizontally
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a bowl, mix the mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Preheat the grill for high heat.
Brush vegetables with olive oil on each side. Brush grate with oil. Place bell peppers and zucchini closest to the middle of the grill, and set onion and squash slices around them. Cook for about 3 minutes, turn and cook for another 3 minutes, or until softened. Remove from the grill and set aside.
Spread some of the mayonnaise mixture on the cut sides of the bread and sprinkle each with feta cheese. Place on the grill cheese side up and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. This will warm the bread and slightly melt the the cheese. The bottom should not burn. Remove from grill and layer with the vegetables. Enjoy as open-face grilled sandwiches.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Want a movie with that burrito?

Chipotle, the Mexican place that used to be owned largely by McDonald's, is sponsoring free screenings of the movie "Food Inc.", in 32 cities this week, including tonight (July 15) in Berkeley and Houston, and tomorrow (July 16) in Austin, DC and West Hollywood. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the screening, and other cities, click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Outback outpost in Richmond

Saw this little item in the Tampa Bay Business Journal this week:
Café Caturra, a Richmond, Va.-based restaurant chain, has picked up some high-profile support from Chris Sullivan, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse and its parent company OSI Restaurant Partners LLC.

Sullivan and his family have become partners with the principals of Café Caturra, said Stephanie Amberg, a spokeswoman for OSI, which is not involved in the concept. “His role is more of a mentor to the team,” Amberg said.

Café Caturra has three locations in the Richmond area and serves artisan coffee by day, boutique wine by night and simple, fresh food throughout the day, according to its Web site.

The company recently raised $300,000 in a private placement to build a restaurant in Short Pump, Va., a Richmond suburb. Amberg said plans call for building cafes in Virginia and the Carolinas over the next couple of years.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday tips

I said I'd post the best tips from my Shrine Mont seminar, but it lasted an hour and I couldn't tell which were the best. So I'm going to list a few each Monday for the next few weeks. And I'd love to hear yours. If you don't want to leave a comment on the posts, just e-mail me at and I'll share them, too.

  • Instead of the water your recipe calls for, try juices, bouillon, or water you've cooked vegetables in. Instead of milk, try buttermilk or yogurt. It can add a whole new flavor and improve nutrition.
  • Get into the habit of measuring the oil you use while you cook, rather than just pouring it out of the bottle. It will be easier to moderate the amount you use. Or use an oil mister.
  • When sautéing, use a small amount of chicken broth or wine instead of butter or oil, especially if you don’t care if it browns. Don’t add too much liquid at a time, or you will boil the food instead of sautéing.
  • To make fat-free broth, chill your meat or chicken broth. The fat will rise to the top, and you can remove it before using the broth.
  • In cooked spaghetti sauces and salsas, carrots do a more effective and nutritious job of sweetening than sugar.