Dec 1, 2007

December 2007

Hi Luna/tics:

Let me get this out of the way: Bah hum-bug.

I feel better....

I will feel much better the day after Christmas when all the hubbub has died down a bit, and we begin to think quickly about New Years Eve.
Tell me why the emphasis on Christmas is "get it done, get it done, get it done!" while New Year's celebrations lean toward "Yahoo! It's champagne and food time!"

I don't get it.

But I love Christmas season because it lets us look at all of the boxed Christmas tree treasures we put away for 11 months out of the year and have such awe, mystery and joy when seeing over and over again as soon as we pull them out.

Gary and I have a slew of ornaments collected over the many years (he is so lucky..... ). Souvenirs from trips, friends, relatives, each other, employees and customers that we keep and remember each person from. --(let me re-phrase this: Gary remembers them all, and I mean ALL. Myself on the other hand, I look at something that has probably been hanging on the tree each year for the last 35 years and ask him "When did you get that?"......My misspent youth in the 70's is always taking its tole on my brain {THIS IS YOUR BRAIN::::} The late 60's and early 70's have become my own cliche.....)

But the funny thing is this: we will get the boxes out, open them up and the stories all come flying out of his mouth about the circumstance in which we either purchased it or were given it. And it is always a comfort to know that this time of the year I get to listen to them all once again. This is the type of Christmas season truly loved by us.....the memories of Christmas pasts and the fun of the current Christmas.....getting on and over with it.

I have come to the conclusion I am not an exceptional person.
But I have always tried to surround myself with exceptional people. They make me look really good.

Although this past year has not been full of good things health-wise, the people I associate with and live with are full of the kind of amazing personalities and purposes that makes me a better person. And they are reminding me of the simple pleasures that seem to knock me most off my feet.

I am amazed at wonderful cooks - people who can just "throw things together (Gary's sister-in law Darlene has this comment about his mom: She could make mud-pies taste good"). Good speakers. People with beautiful gardens. Patient people. People with a great nose for wines, tastes, art, writings.....the list goes on.

But I am most amazed at those in my life that are kind.

Not the people who go out of their way to be kind, but the ones who just have this aura of kindness that radiates from their every pore.

I am amazed at people who are naturally witty and fast with their jokes, quips, etc. These are the people I love to have over for a dinner, or wine or find a reason to just hang out with. The friends and people you meet that can just make you smile and you cannot get enough of their company.

But on the opposite side of this coin, I do love the vicious ones almost just as much.... You know: The gossipy, "take-no-prisoners" kind of friends who just make my mouth drop open with their funny bitchiness that - I am sorry to admit this - make me fall off my chair with their evil wit and sarcasm. (My mother was right: watching to much television as a kid did make my mind a pile of mush!).

We have this friend who we love. We also love to hate this person sometimes, but consider him/her part of our family. The sarcasm, wit and joy at certain things are hilarious. The mean streak is also something to behold. ("Sweetheart, if you can't say something nice about someone, sit next to me....") He/she is the relative/friend that we all have in our history that makes you cringe when they are in a bad mood yet can't wait to hear what is coming out of their mouths next ("Honey, get me a drink. A good stiff one.....Auntie needs a cocktail.....That's a nice boy....."). It seems that these over-the-top Auntie Mame types always lived a bigger life than you, knew the most interesting people, traveled to the most exotic places and seem to have had many loves in their lives. In life, it hasn't been to gather and hold on to friends, but to meet the most people. And yet, inevitably, they live alone and are alone, save for the relatives and friends who like to hear their stories......over and over and over and over again.....

I love my "every-day-every-year-lets-get-out-the-ornaments-and- make-sure-we-eat-Trifle-for-Christmas" existence. It is a comfort.
And so, along this line: a recipe of one of my favorite holiday dishes:
Gary's Pumpkin Pie Cake Recipe: this is one of those recipes we always have during the holidays. A friend named Norma gave it to us probably 20 years ago, to which we have dolled up with more or less ingredients. But it is easy, and great tasting and makes your house smell great. Go for it. And serve it with cold cinnamon whipped cream... Perfect!

I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND. Well, let me put this in proximity: Gary and I just got back from Disneyland. Wednesday night to be honest. No kids this time. Five over-40 adults who just wanted to ride all the rides and see all the exhibits and watch the parades.....We did and we did and we did......I was kind of afraid that five grown-ups waiting in line for the Log Ride, or the Haunted Hollywood Hotel ride might bring the smiling guards over to us asking what we were doing with no children.....but they didn't....and it seems to me that there were lots of adults indulging themselves with the same addiction to speed and roller-coasters and getting sprayed from water that we were seeking......Ha! Who says you can't have fun over 50? (Well 41, 55, 60, 63, and 69 to be exact). We got just as sick and queasy as the little ones! Fun! Quote me on this: It's the happiest place on earth.

I am going to give you an incredible website address:
Josh let me know about "pod-casts" available for the iPod I purchased for Gary almost 2 years ago this Christmas (he doesn't know how to use it because I have not let him have it yet.....but the thought was there....). I went to the iTunes website, and looked up available "pod-casts" and found this one, under food and then The Splendid Table. Let me start by saying that Pisces persons are prone to addiction. I am listening to everyone of this woman's radio shows because they are absolutely fascinating. Not so much a "recipe" show, but rather a food, history, travel show. When I say this old dog (me) is learning new tricks, it may be because of things such as this. Absolutely inspiring, informative and fun. The website does have a whole bunch of off the wall recipes, and the shows are great!. I truly recommend this site to all the foodies out there! (Who knew the real reason a butter knife has a wedge in it?).

This Month's Menu:
My Aunt Sandi and Uncle Paul have over 50 Meyer Lemon trees planted on their property over in Loomis. I help her out with recipes, sauces and what-ever else she needs so that I do not feel bad when we bring home two or three bags of these beauties. We are using the zest and the juice in our Salmon Cakes under our appetizers. Wonderful flavor and tang....

We are running our Hot Head Special of Jerk Pork. Mr. Mike loves this recipe, and it is always fun to see how red his face gets after he eats it. This is a very researched-out recipe that took me forever to develop. It is mole-like in its ingredients, but with a Caribbean/Cuban/Afro accent in its use of many spices and chile's. Pan-sauteed and then simmered boneless pork served with rice. Heat scale: 9 out of 10 (Whew!!). This is the one that makes Josh hic-cup (a weird reaction he has to spicy food.....not so much anymore: the boy has developed the cast iron stomach needed for hot spicy foods. Good for him!).

Rack of Lamb: Just what the weather has needed.....racks coated with a bread crumb, herbs, whole-grain mustard and olive oil breading, roasted in our convection oven, and served with a minted mustard sauce. Wonderful.

Hanger Steak: this wonderful piece of meat is so flavorful and great on the char-broiler. We rub it with our own "Monterrey Spice Rub" (see attached recipe) made with lemon zest, dill, pepper and other herbs. Let it marinate, then char it (medium rare is preferred). Served with a Port butter sauce that Josh developed, it is so great.....

Sonoran Seafood Stew: mixed shell fish and white fish simmered in a rich Mexican styled vegetable broth served with rice, vegetables and grilled tortillas. Warming, flavorful and full of seafood. Yum!

Piri-Piri Prawns: Josh and I got into a conversation about Afro/Caribbean foods, and how much flavor is derived from certain mixtures of herbs, spices and rubbing them down brings out more flavor than you can imagine. Then we talked about how condiments are used so heavily in these nations. So, this is our result: large prawns marinated for several hours, pan-sauteed and then served on a bed of coconut-lime rice with a fresh papaya sauce dolloping the top. Very good mix of flavors.

Mr. Don's Pan-Roasted Chicken: Two wonderful friends love this dish. So we put it back on because it is such a perfect winter dish. "French" style chicken breast pan-sauteed until golden and crisp served on a bed of baby gnocchi, Fingerling potatoes, and button mushrooms simmered in a rich chicken stock. It is one of my very favorite chicken dishes I have ever conceived. Thanks Mr. Don! Other peoples memories make mine look better.

New Wines: Some notes on newbies...
Have we told you about Miraflores Zinfandel and their Petite Sirah? We are offering these incredible local wines by the glass. Our customers are in love with this new addition to the menu. They are here in El Dorado County, and their web-site is:
Go there on the web, and in person.....lovely.

We went to a wine tasting, Gary, Miss Sally and myself last month. We had an incredible experience tasting some new wines (to us) from California, Washington, Oregon, Spain, Australian, and New Zealand.

We tasted this one sherry, Dios Bacos Pedro Ximenez Sherry, that blew our socks off. What I found out is this: Pedro Ximenez is a type of Spanish grape used to make this highly fortified sherry. It is full-bodied, sweet and perfect by itself as a sipper after dinner. But what we did find out is that it goes so well with certain desserts, and also great to finish some of our meat/chicken sauces (think: deglazing your pan with this wonderful stuff). If you like after dinner ports and sherries, you will love this one.

We also purchased a wonderful white wine from Spain called
Saineval Albarino. Very dry and full bodied, no oak, with honey, pear and tropical fruit with a minerally over-tone. A wonderful seafood wine, or a spicy food wine. We loved it.

In all, we have added about 25 new wines since October. I will high-light them for you in our wine book. And if you ask Gary when you come in, he can give you a lot of good recommendations. (" I love it......It's my favorite.....Here's to ya!...Happy days are here again..."---wait a second....that is me, not him....)

We are having a Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night special of some 50% off wines, at whim. Come in to see which ones on which days......

And do not forget: WINO WEDNESDAYS. (It just sounds like a party doesn't it? Or a meeting at a rehab center....on Wednesdays I would suppose...) For those of you who do not know about this, it is all wines on the menu under $35 are 30% off. This is a great opportunity to try some wines or maybe several.

Recipes Attached:
Brining recipe: this is the recipe that we use for our pork chops, pork tenderloins and other cuts. We talk about it alot, and let you know how much flavor, and juiciness is the result. So here is the recipe.

And our Monterrey Spice Rub: keep this made up and in your pantry. It is great on most cuts of meat, poultry and fish. It gives a great accent to all of these items either pan-sauteed, char-broiled or just barbecued. We use it on the Hanger Steak, but have used it on lamb, chicken, and a good solid piece of fish (which we mix with a bit of olive oil). Great gift for any of your food friends also.....

We will be open again this year New Year's evening. Make your reservations early. We will be closed New Year's day.

And finally: remember, the recipes and menu's are in PDF format. If you have any trouble with them, let me know. I hope to get back to you soon.

Have a merry everything. Hope to see all of you soon. And thank you all for the kind notes and letters I get from you when this goes out.
It makes for a happy heart.

Take care all of you.

David at Cafe Luna

Oct 1, 2007

Hello Luna/tics:

It has been awhile, and for that, I apologize to all of you longing to see the menu. But here is this months for you.

Josh, as of tonight, October 2, is coming back from his long ordeal with his back surgery. He will be on three nights a week for a month or so, and then I plan on working him harder! (not really.....well-maybe a little truth to that.....). We have missed his face and abilities at the ol' Cafe. (yahoo! for me! I can finally get my desk to the point I can see its surface!).

One thing I can say I have been able to do in his absence is experiment. That has been fun (and expensive - my staff loves my experiments, or the ones they get to eat and/or take home.)

For all you HOT-HEADS: listen up: I have a dish that is a 9 on the heat scale. I can honestly say that it has been the best received of all the hot and spicy dishes we do in this category. It is a dish with chicken, rock shrimp, Spanish Chorizo (a firm sausage unlike Mexican chorizo) and ham. It is full of chipotle chilies and Serrano chilies, and is smoky and rich and when I say the staff is eating it every night, I mean it. Every night! Even Gary, not the I-Can-Eat-Hot-Food kind of guy is loving it. It is so funny to see everyone sweat, shake their heads after each bite, and then dive in for more! So IF YOU DARE, try it. You will love it if you are a hot food lover. It is a penne pasta dish and very, very satisfying.

Gary and I are in the process of completing several projects around this new house (how long I wonder is new, new? We have been here six months hard to believe, but true.) We are both outside guys, and he has done this incredible tile job on the enclosed patio we have here that is going to be our outside dining room. It is just great. He is a very talented guy when it comes to home projects.

The back yard issue: we have now met with several landscapers, and nothing hit the mark totally. We fluctuated between a pool and just a back yard. It is very small (I can throw a rock from end to end.....and I throw with the enthusiasm and strength of a first grader..who has a cast on his good arm........). We have to submit professionally drawn plans to this board here, and need the expertise of a good architect. In talking to one of the designers, I mentioned I wanted to have a "David Yakish" type back-yard: what this means if you do not know of his work: a fantasy dream that is real. Saffron yellows, turquoise blues, candy reds, oranges.....imagine all the colors that were so hypnotic in that incredible movie "Monsoon Wedding" and you will get an idea of my color palette. So this guys tells me "he's back you know. Back here in the Sacramento area. I'll get you his number." He did, I called, we met and magic!! We are on our way to submission of the drawn plans. We think the same way when it comes to outrageous gardens and art and plants in the gardens. (My poor mom: she has in the past when looking at some of the things I love in art or plants or colors asked if this is what an "acid" trip is like.....still don't know how to take that.....). But I guess it is when it comes to all of the best things you can think of hitting your eyes in a flash of color, textures, and smells......Go Mom!

Which reminds me:: she is going to be 76 next month. And she is healthy, happy and still likes to go dancing with her boy-friend Harry several times a month (her old 11Th and 12Th grade sweet-heart from Grant Union High School. Class of 1944 I think). But I keep thinking how lucky we are to have a healthy and still active mom.

In the last several months, some our best friends have lost their parents. I think that the quietness of loss is one of the hardest things to grasp. When you come home to the house and realize that the noise of that particular person is not going to be part of your daily and hourly sounds. And the emptiness that you feel that cannot ever be explained to others that haven't lost someone close to them. Gary's mom died in 1980. She was the first person that died that I was close to. I was 28. And my heart was ripped out of me for his loss and his brothers loss and his dad's loss. I remember going from the service to the cemetery in the limo and looking out at all the cars that were still traveling and wondering why life was still going on because Gloria had died. Shouldn't they all be stopped along the highway or stop driving for awhile? At least until tomorrow? That's when I realized that grief is so personal with is own set of feelings and emotions. We cannot explain away any of this....Time does have a tendency to make it easier, but never lessens the loss.

So anyway: here is to all of us that have lost someone and made it through. And hope for those of you that have not.

But I digress:
Food: And Comfort Food in general.

I have to tell you that I must have had over 200 responses to the last e-mailing sent about what was everyone's favorite comfort foods and why. It took me weeks to read all of them, and I saved each one. The big winners: meat-loaf, pot-roast, mac and cheese. The one most touching: liver. Because this person grew up in a very poor house-hold, and although she hated liver, it reminded her of the bad times that she and her family got through together. As a family. It was a great letter. What is so amazing to me is how many of our comfort foods we basically have eliminated from our diets except to "cheat" every so often. And yet to still think of them as a warm memory of very wonderful and comforting times in our lives. Keep them coming to me if you are of mind.

So this menu: We are having some of the foods I love and some of you have told me about.
#1 - A great roast chicken dish served on a bed of button mushrooms, Fingerling potatoes and gnocchi with all of the pan juices reduced to a rich sauce. Sunday dinner every day....

#2 - And then there is one of my favorite: short-ribs of beef long simmered on a bed of onions, and the gravy made with the onions and the de-fatted juices of the meat. Served on a bed of polenta. Awwwww......

#3 - Crab-Stuffed Prawns: jumbo prawns stuffed with Blue Crab meat, minced herbs and vegetables pan-roasted until golden and served with a reduced saffron and ginger butter sauce.

#4 - Double cut maple-and-molasses brined Pork chops. If you have had pork that is tough and dried out, try brining. It is nothing more than soaking the meat in a liquid made with salt, dry herbs, various seasonings, and salt. You let them "brine" for 24-36 hours. Then you take them out of the brine, pat dry, and roast, broil or saute. This make all the difference really. If you want me brine recipe, let me know. Our has maple syrup and molasses in it. It is great for pork.

#5 - Filet Mignon Diane: if you remember in the 60's, Steak Diane was a flambeed dish that was the height of restaurant drama! flamed at your table, big fire and the chance the wait person might ignite the entire place on fire! As a kid, I loved this spectacle. (still do....) But what I did was to make this great old venerable sauce: brandy, wine, mushrooms, garlic and stock.. wonderful served over our filet's. And with the mashed potatoes.....Good Food.

#6 - Halibut is back again: I love this fish. This fish is one of the very best for flakiness and pure white flesh when cooked. I love its sweet taste and clean flavors. And I love Italian parsley. People have a tendency to eliminate parsley as a flavor, but it is intense. We are making an Italian parsley aioli to serve with this wonderful fish. Try it.
#7 - Although not on the menu, I will also be serving our filet mignon and wild mushroom stroganoff this month. This will be a special we will be running several times a week. It takes along time to make and simmer so that it is tender, and I have a tendency to run out, so we will be doing it as a verbal special. If this is something you must have, call us for its availability for the evening.

#8 - Soup time. Anyone who knows me knows I love to make soups. Cafe Luna was going to be originally a soup only restaurant. Where you could come in and just buy soups to have as dine-in or take out. We were going to make fresh breads daily to go along with these soups, and life would be my cabaret. But then I realized how much my rent was.....and I needed to buck up the menu.....But they are back for the colder months. A bowl of our soup can be a meal in itself. Ask nightly what we are serving. I love to make soup....did I say that already?

New wines: have added about 20 new wines to the menu recently.

We are now carrying Young's from Amador County, Jeff Runquist wines also from Amador County and Lavender Ridge also from Amador. We have tasted many of the new vintages from our other locals and love them....Have added several of Madrona's reserves, Boeger's reserves, C.G. DiArie, and are just happy that Narrow Gate still has their Chardonnay and Zinfandel for us. We are all very fortunate to live in this wonderful wine country.
Navarro Vineyards: if you have not tried this wineries wines, you will love them..We are carrying their Premier Chardonnay, their Pinot Noir, and their Gewurztraminer. All of these wines are major award winners through-out the state and country. We are lucky enough to be one of the few in Northern California to have them......

We are having a Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night special of some 50% off wines, at whim. Come in to see which ones on which days......

And do not forget: WINO WEDNESDAYS. (It just sounds like a party doesn't it? Or a meeting at a rehab center....on Wednesdays I would suppose...)

For those of you who do not know about this, it is all wines on the menu under $35 are 30% off. This is a great opportunity to try some wines or maybe several.

(Disclaimer: Don't drink and drive: God bless Lightning Taxi Service....and your children. Who would just love to have to come pick up Mom or Dad from a public restaurant because they were having just too much fun who could hold it over your heads until they needed something.......Parents are NOT supposed to have fun! Isn't this a rule somewhere? Am I digressing again?)

Anyway kids, we hope to see you all soon. The winter is approaching fast. The colder days (maybe) will be upon us, and you must get out of the house (to eat at your favorite restaurants which make the foods that take to long to make at home.....what a plug for eating out often!!!). There are 83 days left until Christmas (you are welcome for that bit of information) so all of you who are much to busy to stay home (another shameless plug to promote downtown Placerville) come and see us. Gary is starting to wear long pants now: he is like our very own Punxsutawney Phil groundhog for predicting weather. Winter is coming.....hide the Tommy Bahama shirts!!!

As always, the menu attachment is in PDF format. If any of you want to be removed from this list let me know. If you know anyone who would like to be on it, let me know that also.

P.S. before I end: I really love getting letters and notes back from you. It is the customer who takes time out from your busy lives to share something with me, a stranger who types alot and I do appreciate it beyond belief.....thank you all for sharing memories, recipes and banter.

David at Cafe Luna

Jul 24, 2007

July 2007

Hello All:

I'm back in full force.... My musing is back in order, and there are some things to relate to all of you.

First, Josh is out of commission for a couple of months due to some surgery he needed. Send good vibes over the air-waves....and especially to his wonderful, patient
(...mayacopa, mayacopa) wife who is taking care of him. (A saint I tell you, a saint!)

Back in action as they say. Had a bad couple of weeks, but necessity has a tendency to get you back on your feet rather quickly. That and the fact that all of the things you need to get done are waiting for you no matter what. (I knew I should have made a lot more money....personal staff could have solved all of this!)

Red Jello. I have come to the conclusion that this might be my miracle food. When I was in the hospital, for the first seven days, I was only allowed to have water and ice. No food. NO FOOD! But it got to the point that Ole' Doc said "YOU MAY HAVE SOME JELLO TODAY". Well, all I could think about was when would I get it. And funny, it is the only single thing I was craving. Ms. Marybeth Fahey at the hospital personally brought me my portion. I have never tasted anything so wonderful, nor filling. It reminded me of when I was a kid possibly.

My mother- bless her - was not the best cook in the world (still doesn't like to), but she did make sure we had Jello available as kids. It was the "treat" we all looked forward to. Oh those wonderful 50's...Campbell's Cream of Tomato Soup, Saltine Crackers, and Velveeta Cheese were the other things we loved....I'm sorry.... But it was and is RED JELLO that still makes me realize that I am just a small person in this outrageously well-used body.....still wondering if everything we worry about is really worth it. Ha.

Which makes me think of comfort foods. Have you ever thought as to what food really gives you "comfort". If you don't have any, that is too bad. We relate to smells, foods, tastes, etc. in an instant. They bring back a flash of memory that is so vivid (remember the first time you tasted an ant? Did you ever taste it again? Not me...). But it is like those of us who like or are intrigued by the smell of gasoline, or fresh cow manure, or skunks. Not necessarily proud of it, but again, the flash of some memories come to me when I do smell these things.

It is the same with foods. I have come to the conclusion that my mother made eight different dinners for us. These eight dinners were rotated so that we never had the same thing each Monday, or Tuesday -- you know what I mean. But she would give us this incredible MEAT-LOAF, or an equally incredible POT-ROAST. And then there was the FRIED CHICKEN SUNDAYS at my grandma's house (What a good cook she was!) We would also have TACO'S (ground beef only with Schillings Dry Taco Seasoning), My step-dad being the butch guy he was, would always handle a weekly barbecue of sorts....big steaks, big roasts, grilled fish. Fun!!) And as a kid, I remember that my mother would also make us BREAKFAST AT NIGHT! We loved the fact we could have a pancake breakfast at dinnertime. But all of those things are such memory makers.

I believe that every kid (which includes all of us) have these special foods that we might not eat much anymore, but reserve a special place in our hearts and minds for those flavors and tastes. So think about it: WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT FOOD? I would really love to know this from all of you. If you have the time, drop me a line and let me know: the foods, the emotions that go with the foods, and reasons you remember. I love this kind of interaction from you.

But then again, I am also wondering if - because I was a little kid in the 1950's, did dinner and food have a different significance than it does today? As hectic as all of our lives are now, I know I cannot count on DINNER-AT-6:00-PM-ON-THE-DOT like I did as a kid. We sat around the kitchen table or sometimes the dining room table (special occasions and company only) and talked about our day; at school, at work, at home. My mom would listen so intently and was so interested in what we had happen while away from her. What we experienced, what we did. As an adult, I keep wondering if I did have children, would I be able to sustain this kind of regiment with my kids? Gawd.....I would hope so. These type of daily occurrences that we took for granted as kids were such a huge building block of the person I am today - for better or worse. (Better I think...)

Gary and I have a tendency to "dine" when we can. Whether it be with each other, or the two of us with friends. But "dining" - i.e. sitting around the table talking about our day, our experiences, our work or what we learned - I guess it is still important. We might not make the 6:00-PM-ON-THE-DOT schedule, but we do share a lot each night. Maybe the universe knew what he/she was doing by my not having kids, but maybe my situation in life is just as full-filling with this kind of communion with family and friends. It IS all good.

So now you know why when I got the RED JELLO delivered to me by Mary-Beth, well to say that the room was very bright and I am sure there was a halo of gold around her head and there was music playing.....well some might say it was the constant morphine drip....Me? It was my comfort food talking back at me. Thank you lady.


New this menu:

The Four Cheese Tortellini - if you have not tasted the Peppedew peppers (they sell them in bulk at Safeway's deli islands), these are intriguing. They are sweet with just the tiniest bit of heat, but with such good why not make a marinara out of these? Sun-dried tomatoes and fresh organic tomatoes (Yes - we got them back!!)...I just hope you like this dish as much as I do.

The Pan-Roasted Chicken Breast - again: Comfort food at its best. Simple, elegant and something that for some reason we go out to dinner to have.....The Fingerling potatoes and the little gnocchi come from my step-mother Gloria's Northern Italian heritage: she loved mixing her starches and simmering them in stocks or pan-reduced sauces. So that is what I am doing. Love it.

Wasabi Crusted Salmon: Lulu and Carmen and Lourdes who are the back-bone of Cafe Luna, love to watch us Gringo's eat hot food. I can tackle any of them with my heat levels, and usually surpass theirs. But Wasabi (as with Horseradish) is something I can eat, but they do not like at all. I guess it is because the heat is a "sinus" heat, rather than a "tongue" heat (I triumphed!) I mixed the Wasabi with Panko break crumbs and the lime zest and it makes this dish zippy with out being HOT! If you like the flavor of Wasabi, you will be happy. The orange and lime salsa is a great accompaniment to this.

Sea-Bass: let's get this straight: I love this fish. It is firm, yet flaky. Flavorful and sweet tasting. And it is a great fish to poach, broil, steam, or pan saute. So I am going to just pan-saute it until just getting golden, and then finish it in a red curry and coconut broth. You will like this too.

Lamb Shanks: one of our most requested dishes to include in any menu. These meaty lamb shanks are another "comfort" type food - falling off the bone, served on a bed of mashed potatoes....

We have several new desserts cooking up this month also....berry season, peach season, apricots, mind is swirling with ideas and recipes to try.....if only this lasted all year.....the ripe fruit I mean....


Since the last e-mail letter, I must have included about 20 new wines on the list. Am so pleased to tell you about "T-Vine" Cellars wines. ( We are carrying three of there incredible wines: their Zinfandel, their Petite Sirah (personal favorite) and their "Psychedelic Rooster" Rose. This man, Greg Brown, must be in my age bracket: we think a lot the same way although he is much more elegant in his writings. Here is a quote from his monthly newsletter:

"I woke this morning, lit a candle on the hearth, put on some music of gratitude and sat to meditate and be enveloped in the richness, the ether of spirit of my life. What always seems to seep out of me at times such as these is gratitude. It is an overwhelming wave that I cannot put into words. What comes to mind is that life is much like an ecstatic dance in a room filled with people fully engaged in the moment, in the rhythm of life. People not looking in a linear way, rather swirling and flowing with a sense of peaceful detachment, not trying to hold a space, but looking to move through open space, knowing that God will provide us what we most desire… Life is a dance of faith, letting go of control yet setting a personal intention. One of my mantras is "if not me, then who?" Let us be the ones to inspire. To be the example to be the type of person we wish existed in our world.

May we manifest our dreams, enjoy the moment before us, and be kinder to those around us. Here’s to a magical 2007 filled with health, gratitude and love."
Greg Brown - T-Vine Cellars

I do think that this is such a great paragraph....brings out all of my old hippy-dippy feelings and wonderment....we are just children again....

David Girard Wines in the Coloma area: What a rush to have some of this man's wines. The "Rive d'Or" blend is incredible, well priced and a great food wine. Knowing that I personally like "stain your teeth reds" this one is a great addition.

I am done for now with all of this yammering, and hope to see you soon. Gary is happy to be in his shorts and Tommy Bahama shirts, and he gets to hang out in the dining room comfortable once again... Life is good.

I have included the July Menu, along with two recipes: one for the Cheese Fort, as promised and another surprise ....something that is a great summer idea. Enjoy. And let me know about those favorite memory evoking foods...

As always, the three files I have attached are in the PDF format. Let me know if this does not work for you, or if you would like to be removed from this list.

Peace and good comfort,
David at Cafe Luna/tic.

Just a note: here at Creekside Place (where we are located) we have a brand new art gallery that is just incredible. It is called "Gallery 4" and it houses El Dorado County artists with oils, water-colors, sketches, photographs, sculptures, and Ron's beautiful jewelry on display. The neat thing is they are all so excited to be here, and to have created their wonderfully diverse shop. A fantastic addition to our fair city.

Apr 1, 2007

April 2007

Hello Luna/tics:
April Adventures In The Kitchen and the Wine Shelves

Long days, warmer nights.

I have this tendency to wish my barbecue grill was all cleaned up and ready to go so that I could light it up, and then the smoke and smells from the beef/chicken/fish or veggies we cook would start permeating into the neighbors yards and make them wish they were invited over for that fabulous smelling meal! Have you ever noticed that when you smell someone else's barbecue going that it just makes you hungry? Ahhh, the wonders of a man and his grill.....

This year, I am most sad because at this writing, I do not have a yard yet. But we did keep about 200 potted plants that most I could not have replaced. And we have until November to complete it or they take away the dog, or fine us or something like that.

The new house is great, the moving in has been fun, but we keep unpacking box after box of things. I had no idea how much junk Gary has accumulated after 356 years (of course all my stuff is all important and needed..everyone needs to have 24 white rubber spatulas in their kitchen).

It is almost when we hope summer isn't totally here because we have had enough of the warmer days to make us long for some of the cooler nights winter gave us. What I do notice the most - food wise that is, is how we start to re-think what we will be cooking: more grilled items with lighter salsas or puree's to top them off. More exotic varieties of sea foods and shellfish ready to hit us between the eyes so that we hardly have a chance to sample them all. And most of all::::our wineries have started introducing so many of their new vintages. (This may make me most slut that I am...).

Let me tell you how hard it is to sample new wines all the time....


7:30 AM - I get up, have my coffee, take the dog for his mile walk, take my nap.
10 AM - Read e-mails, reply to the crazies that keep sending me messages about that poor prince in Africa who needs to use my money to get at his so that his entire family will be freed (thanks to me!), then I look at my bank account. Need another nap.

12 PM - Shower, have my 1/2 glass of wine (never before noon AA says), and get ready to go to work. Drive the 19 minutes to Cafe Luna and say hi to all, then get out the famous blue book:"My Book Of Tastings" - this is the book where I write down all of the wines we taste: the sales representative, the vintage, the blend, the bottle and case costs, and the highs and lows of the particular wine I get to try. My purveyors usually bring about 5-8 bottles for me to taste. And then we start. (NOTE: I am a copious note taker when tasting any wines. My penmanship is perfect for first several wines we taste. Then, when re-reading my notes, I notice that the more wines I taste, my penmanship starts to slack off the lines and to the sides or get larger and larger and finally looks like abstract art....I just know I must be allergic to certain wines!)

SIDE NOTE:::I know you all think this must be rough; but as they say, somebody has to do it. But there is a lot of difficulty in tasting so many wines on a regular basis (poor me...). It is very hard to find good adjectives for a "so-so" wine. It is even harder to find something good in some rot-gut swill that my sales people spend more time extolling the wonders of, it's allure and use adjectives that I don't understand or even slightly taste (sorry....sometimes a sows ear only makes a sows ear).

I have gotten to the point in my old life (55 last month), that I have to be honest about the wines we taste. Lucky for me, I can use my customer base as an excuse when needed. "Gosh, I wish I could carry your wine, but I don't think MY CUSTOMERS would like it". Ha! I probably hated it, but there is something about a man or woman pouring you wine that has a tendency to make you look for a reason to ease the blow on unacceptable wines. You have to understand people, there is a lot of bad and mediocre wines out there that start out a very unreasonable price and only go higher. I don't get this. But I digress....

I taste the wines, I make my notes and we talk about a schedule when we can possibly add it to the wine list. This is great.
They leave, then the next sales person comes in and we start all over.

Thursday: I cannot seem to wake up early. The dog is mad at me because I won't take him for a walk, my coffee is poured but I forget to drink it because I have such a head-ache. I don't understand.....So I stay home in bed all day to make sure I am okay for Friday.

Fridays: I wake up from my good rest from the day prior, do the same as Wednesday, and start out again with usually 2-4 appointments for sales people and wines. The best part of all of these tastings are that some of these wines are so incredible, so luscious and fruity and so outstanding that I can't wait! And then the staffers try them (if there is any left) and we agree or not. But what an adventure. And what a great place to live in this wine world. (Most of the time, the sales reps leave several of the bottles tasted to let staff and customers drink later that night.....good marketing idea!..)
Then I have to try to function the rest of the day....

So all of this is leading up to me telling you that I am having a 40% wine sale on about 22 wines off the list. Getting ready for new ones coming in (remember how excited I was after tasting them???). This is a great combination of varietals and wineries, and it breaks my heart to lose some, but can't wait to replace them with the aforementioned newbies. (Again, refer to the "Wine Slut" name above...)

Right now, we have about 155+- on our list. And if you have been here before, you know how tight my wine storage is. So I don't have room for adding wines without removing some first (damn that landlord for renting me such a small space!....wait - that's Gary and I!).

Soooo you wonder.....what are some of these new incredible wines?

Read my lips when I tell you that this winery is a huge addition to the county of El Dorado's wine making. Mike and "D" have been around for several years waiting for just the right time to introduce their winery to the world. They unofficially opened the winery up for tasting a couple of weeks ago, and plan on a full-blow out later this summer. (Will keep you posted on that...) We are carrying their Barbara, their Cabernet and their Merlot. They are making currently about nine different varietals. I only had room for the three. I wish I had more room. The Barbara is outstanding! Outstanding!
I am not a Merlot lover per-se, but I love this one. The Cabernet is full of big berry fruit, good tannin levels and all around a wonderful addition to our local Cabs. And the pricing is so reasonable. We are carrying each of these by the bottle or the glass for you to experiment with. You will not be disappointed.

#2 - Noceto "Frivolo" - a white, very fruity summer wine from one of our favorite Sangiovese makers from Amador County. A wine we have joyfully carried for about nine years now. This white is somewhat sparkling tasting, but it is not. It just has a lightness and fruit to it that makes it a great sipping wine. Try it with one of Ginger Cream Brulee's. Or just to sample with some bread.

#3 - Schramsbergs "Mirabelle" Brut - our friend and ex-co worker Sara (come back!) and I have agreed on Sparkling Wines as our drink of choice for along time now. We both know when you don't know what to order, we would order a good sparkling wine. Why? Because it can keep your mouth so happy! Schramsberg happens to be one of our favorite makers of sparkling wines. So we are carrying this one. Gorgeous and it gets everyone in a good mood - well almost everyone. (Have you ever known people or friends - that no matter what you can do or show them, they just don't or won't get out of "that MOOD"? If a good bottle or champagne or sparkling wine can't get them out, well nothing is ever going to work so give up and suggest counseling that they have to pay money for. And you just enjoy it with someone who shares your good taste.)

We have several more new wines, so look on the list and notice anything with a red * next to it.

The New Menu: What fun! Josh and I had a great conversation about food and what I like to eat, like to cook and want us to serve here. We have a good collaboration on this menu, reflecting some of his new-found knowledge based on things we crave, and what we can get for this time of year to play with.

A new appetizer for us: Fromage Fort. This is a great recipe. Simply great. We mix some of our favorite cheeses with white wine or port wine. We blend it and serve it with toasts for spreading. Now the secret is in the selection of the different cheeses. And the wine. Ha! What artists we can be. (This is a great recipe that we will be including in next months e-mailing to you.)


Torta Rustica: I have made this recipe many times when we were open for lunches. It was undoubtedly one of our most popular hot dish lunches. It's a puff pasty filled vegetarian dish that we fill with layers of sauteed vegetables such as eggplant, roasted potatoes, roasted red bells, artichoke hearts, herbs, etc. We add a bit of jack cheese, enclose it and bake it until it is puffed and golden. We are serving this as a vegetarian special, but everyone enjoys it.

This months recipes are one of the most requested I have ever had over the years. It is the Chutney Chicken Salad. We have used this as a sandwich filling, as a Salad-Salad, and as an appetizer served on small toasts or crackers. It is amazingly simple, yet one of those recipes that people just love but cannot seem to figure out. Over the past decade, I bet we have made no less than 500 pounds of this if all were calculated correctly.

But!!! Here is another part of this recipe that will leave you hanging with your mouth open: the best way I know of to perfectly poach chicken. Poached chicken sometimes is this terrible chewy, overcooked mess (admit it - we have all done it!) that is flavorless, hard to chew or cut, and is devoid of any of the tender, silky meat that we love. This recipe is a variation from a woman I met several times in my Bay Area adventures....her name is Barbara Tropp.

She was this wonderful woman who wrote two cookbooks that I believe are essential to the well-stocked cook-book collection: "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" and "China Moon Cookbook". The latter from her incredible restaurant on Post Street in San Francisco, a place that I got to go to many times during my post hippy-dippy days. She was this very vibrant woman who loved to talk "shop" and had an incredible "light" about her: she could discuss the right way to slice fresh ginger and make it an earth moving experience with her descriptions of fragrance, freshness and touch. She died way to young in 2001, but believe me, reading her two books will be something you will LEARN and gain incredible cooking knowledge from. "China Moon Cookbook" to me is as essential as "The New Basics Cookbook" or the "Silver Palette" line of cookbooks.

Have fun with these recipes, they make great lunch items.

Take Care.

David at Cafe Luna

No-Poach Chicken

Café Luna Recipe:

3" nub of fresh Ginger, sliced about 1/4" thick (you can leave skin on)
3 cloves of fresh garlic, bruised or chopped in half
2-3 green scallions
6 whole peppercorns
1 gallon cold water (I use this amount of water for about 8 breasts. The idea is the chicken should have about 3" of water above it and the meat not crowded to poach evenly.)
(NOTE: An exceptional flavor option: long zest strips of lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange or Tangerine zest -no white pith [bitter!] - depending on your finished recipe- this really adds wonderful, haunting, elegant flavor)
Heavy bottomed pot with tight fitting lid
Chicken Breasts - skin on or off, bone in or not - must be un-frozen and at room temperature.

1. Fill pot with cold water. Add all the ingredients, except the chicken!

2. Cover with lid, bring to a rolling boil, and let boil about 5 minutes (to infuse the water with the aromatics). Lift the lid and smell your liquid: you want to be able to lightly smell the ginger, the garlic and the citrus (if using). If you don’t, add more of what you don’t lightly smell.

3. Lift the lid, turn off the heat, and gently slide the raw chicken into the pot. Cover.

4. Let chicken "poach" for exactly 2 hours without lifting the lid.

5. After two hours (don’t peek or lift lid!), remove the chicken, shred with fingers or cut into desired size for your finished recipe.*

That’s it. You will love this. Amaze your friends with this.

* The remaining poaching liquid can be used for stock. I would reduce it down about 50%, strain it, cool it, and freeze or refrigerate for later use in soups, sauces or ??? making.

Barbara Tropp (reprinted from "China Moon Cookbook"
"I know of no better way to cook a chicken breast for salads than ‘no-poaching.’ A modification of a classic Chinese technique, it involves nothing more than submerging a whole chicken breast with its skin and bone intact in lightly seasoned water that has been brought to a boil. The heat is then turned off, a lid clamped on the pot, and the meat left to cook through passively for 2 hours. It’s a no-brainer in the words of my husband, and a technique that amazes every cook in our kitchen. The result is a chicken breast that is tender, perfectly cooked, and unsurpassed for moistness.
Three things are important to the success of no-poach chicken:
First, the chicken must be impeccably fresh. That is, it should have no smell, leach no blood, and the raw meat should cling tenaciously to the skin and bone.
Second, the breast must be at room temperature when it is submerged in the boiling water.
Third, the pot should be a heavy one with a close-fitting lid to hold in the heat.
With all three in line, no-poaching is flawless."

Chutney Chicken Salad

Cafe Luna
for Sandwiches or Green Salad Entree

2-1/2# Just poached chicken meat, hand-shredded or cut into ½" cubes * (Use the "No- Poach Method" - recipe provided)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1-1/2 cups minced fresh celery
1 ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tsp Toasted curry powder (see below note #1)
1 cup house-made chutney, chopped up into 1/4" dice ** (or purchase from grocery. Not a hot one, but a mild variety. I make a Ginger/Mango/Apple chutney for the restaurant)
1/2 cup minced fresh onion
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1 cup + - mayonnaise
salt to taste

1. Blend all ingredients except mayonnaise and salt in a large bowl.

2. Add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, stir and add enough mayonnaise to bind the mixture together. You a looking for a creamy, yet firm mixture.

3. Taste before adding salt, and add just a pinch at a time

4. Let rest for about an hour to fully develope flavors.

5. Use right away, or refrigerate for later. I find that this tastes best just slightly chilled/almost room temperature, rather than cold. The chutney and spices really pop this way.

*Note #1: This chicken salad will greatly benefit from having the poached chicken still warm when mixing together. It will also help to keep the chicken moist. The chicken will absorb much more flavor if it is warm rather than cold.

**Note #2: To toast curry powder: place curry powder in a 8"(small) non-stick pan, place on very low heat; stir with wooden spoon and "toast" the spice until you just begin to smell it. Don’t let it burn! Take pan off heat and let cool before using.)

Feb 1, 2007

February 2007

Hello All;

I have been very busy for the last couple of months, and so I do apologize for those of you waiting for new recipes and information.

Having moved into a rental in El Dorado Hills, we got in, stayed for 6 months, and purchased a new home last month. Will be moving in February 8 and can't wait to get settled. It is very disheartening not to be able to unpack your favorite saute or roasting pan. Or to be able to find your favorite platter for serving....But the new house has a huge kitchen, with alot of great entertainment areas through out the house. Now, I can finally find my Le Creuset pots I did not have room to unpack!

Further adventures in cooking:
Which brings me to braising: some of you do not know what braising is, and alot of you do. Here at Cafe Luna, Josh and I both have a love for slow braised dishes. The flavors and tenderness that comes out of these long-cooked dishes is simply outstanding:, comforting, warm, and delicious.

And something people are always assuming is hard. Braising could not be easier or more enjoyable for the home cook - beginner or experienced.

Braising (from the French word "braiser") is cooking with "moist heat," typically in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid which results in rich, concentrated flavors.

Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to successfully break down tough connective tissue in meat and is an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Think your favorite pot roast recipe, or brisket. In our case here at the Cafe, we love braising short-ribs (see last letter's recipe), our lamb shanks, Osso Bucco, and some of the wonderful braised chicken dishes.

You quickly brown your meat item on all sides, remove from the pan, and with the bits on the bottom of the pan, you finish your vegetables, add your stock, wine or liquids, replace the meats, bring to a medium simmer, cover, reduce heat and place in a 300 -325 degree oven for 1-4 hours depending on the size.

A good, heavy casserole is so important. Le Creuset brand is my personal favorite. I like this brand because it is cast iron covered with an impermeable enameled surface that is easy to clean, and look great to serve in. Expensive, but something you will be passing on to your loved ones when you are gone. I may be taking mine with me....where ever I go, I figure I will try to cook my way out of what ever situation I have gotten myself into....
(TonyMatthews on Main Street in Placerville carries several of the pieces, and they will be able to show you what else is available if you want to check them out.)

Recently, we hosted a Mexican Party night at the house. We made pork taco's. What we did different was we took the pork roast, browned it and then cooked the meat for 4 hours at 300 degrees in a mixture of stock, peppers, oranges, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and chipotle chiles. This meat, after the 4 hours low cooking time, came out so tender that we were able to shred it with a fork. While we were shredding the meat, the remaining juices from the meat was placed on the stove and reduced down about 1/2 to further concentrate these flavors. I pureed the sauce, drizzled some over the shredded meat and served the remaining sauce on the side.

The main issue here: one pot to do almost all of these steps. And the seal on the pot ensures the flavors are all in the finished product, and not lost to the atmosphere (space must smell soo good...).

Gary and I along with four of our greatest friends got to go on another vacation last month. We went to a little beach town called Trancones in Mexico, about 20 miles from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. This town is a quiet little place with no bars on the windows, many little taquerias (little fast food restaurants Mexican style) and several incredible finds. We went to a place called " El Burro Borracho" ( The Drunken Mule). Without a doubt, I had the best quesidilla I have ever experienced. Fresh corn tortillas, layered with small char-broiled prawns, pan-sauteed wild mushrooms, and a wonderful cheese called "Oaxaca" cheese. It is nutty and buttery and perfectly melted between the three layers of tortillas. It was outstanding! We all agreed it was the best! (The six margaritas had nothing to due with our judgment. I take these things very seriously...)

The place we stayed at was was Casa de la Sirena (House of the Mermaid). If I can say one thing about traveling, it would be go here for an incredible vacation! Check out their website at : Debbie and Mike are perfect hosts, and they love to visit and talk and happen to be two of the most enjoyable people you could find. They live in the Sacramento area when not in Mexico, and I can tell you that their place is absolutely lovely! On the beach, unobstructed views of the ocean, a beach that goes for miles, and very private. We all needed a rest, and so we did not even rent a car. I read three books in one week (heaven!), Gary and Mike got as tan as the natives, the rest of us drank, ate, and became beach bums like we were meant to be (in another life maybe.)

While we were there, we were offered fresh fish to purchase daily. There is a great staff of two (one named Maria, is available to cook any food you would like. She cooks it and charges you $4-5 and has it on your stove when you return from what ever adventure you may have gone to.) Jesus was our all-around pool guy, yard man and get what ever else we needed. We were able to get incredible prawns, fresh from the ocean at about $4.00 a pound. The six of us in two nights, ate six pounds! We grilled them, we boiled them, we ate them in salads, soups and snacks. It was great.

Which leads me to this months recipes:
We are running a great prawn dish I have named Prawns ala Casa de la Sirena.
This dish could not be simpler, yet more flavorful. You see, in Mexico, Gary and I have been to many restaurants there and always like to try different regions versions of shrimp, prawns, and shell fish. The main thing we have noticed: Mexican cooks love to grill their prawns in the shells. The reason? There is so much flavor to be derived from this bit of shell that it makes the difference between good and great. What we have done is cut the whole prawns down the center along the spine shell (not the leg area).

Keeping the body intact, we then will take a skewer (wood or metal) and weave it in through the outside shell, through the body and then out the other outside shell. We usually skewer 3 to 4 per skewer. We then baste them with a quick mix of fresh citrus juices, zest, pureed roasted peppers, and butter.

Then we place them, shell side down, on our hot char-broiler. At home, you could do these on the barbecue, or use your ovens top broiler, keeping the prawns about 6" to 8" away from the heat. (You want hot heat to cook them quickly, and to retain their natural juiciness.) We cook them until you can smell the shell cooking, and believe me you will. The shell will get a vivid orange/pink, and the top meat will begin to just start getting white around the outside edges.
At this point, turn them over. Cook for maybe two to three minutes more, and remove them to your serving platter, shell side down.
Serve them with a dipping butter (recipe included) or a great citrus vinaigrette. Simple, and delicious.

Have about 25 new wines on the wine menu which I will be talking about in our next letter.
As always, our dinner menu is attached in Word format, along with the Prawns recipe.

Enjoy and thank you all for your support.
Have a happy Valentines Day, and kiss someone heartily.

David at Cafe Luna(tic)