Sep 4, 2009

September 2009 Rants and Raves

Hi All You Luna/tics!!

September is here!!! I swear some of the hottest days of summer come this month....the heat and then our cool nights get me so confused (I'm the pretty one.......), but reminds me of BRAISING MEATS and stews, and polenta and Lamb shanks, the list gets longer and longer as I just sit here and think.... favorite foods.........slow roasting, bringing out so much flavor and with so very little effort, just let it simmer for hours and hours and hours.....(and that my friends is why the Crock-Pot was invented - to make excellent cooks out of all of us....)

Okay, the tide, as slow as it is turning, is lightening up. Customers and friends coming in have let some of the weight off their shoulders and are breathing just a bit easier......

Now don't get me wrong: it is still pitiful, sad, and each day a big question-mark of "what tha?" is going on, but at least there seems to be an end to this very long road we are traveling. Maybe not this month, or even this year, but just to have something positive coming out of peoples mouths for a change: what a beginning sigh of relief.

Several of the vacant shops on Main Street here in Placerville are filled again. Nice to see this. But shops that are having to go out of business soon are not so nice to see. But it is inevitable during a semi-recession (not my words). My opposite "sides-of-the-tracks friends" keep telling me of the "whoa's" to come.....but hold on fellas::::the worst we have now experienced as a is the future we HAVE GOT to look forward to as something better than what has been behind us.

And don't get me started on medical provisions!!!

Well, I did start, so here it is: I am a small business man who only employs 8 very wonderful employees (myself? I am a free agent who is only doing this for the love of wine and that order.....). Of these eight employees, only four of them have medical insurance that they can afford, either through spouses or parents. My other four do not. And when they go to the doctor, they pay cash. And when they go to the emergency room, they pay cash. Allot of cash....

(Side note: my guy who takes care of Creekside Place gardens: woke up with a high fever and a stomach ache that would not go away. He called the doctor up who in turn told him to check into the emergency ward at Marshall Hospital. He did at 7 AM in the morning. He was diagnosed with kidney stones, was checked into the hospital, had a treatment to dissolve them, and was out at 11 AM the same morning. Ten days later, he and his family were presented with a hospital and emergency room bill of over $10,000.00. How can he pay that? He has no insurance, but pays with cash. He is beside himself as to what to do........pending results to come.........)

I can only hope that my contribution as an employer will be the amount that we can sustain as a small business. I can also only hope that the government realizes the burden that will be placed on the "little guy" and the mom-and-pop businesses around the nation. Too much will put so many owners out of business - that preverbal straw-that-breaks-the-camels-back so to speak. Any amount will ultimately require price hikes for all the services and items we provide, and the consumer will be the ones feeling that. BUT.....we as a nation have to do something. I am willing to do my part. My people deserve the treatment needed if medical attention is required, and they should not to sell the cow to get it.

Now that Gary is a Medicare Man, we will see what this has to bring us....and hey? Isn't that a government run agency? Hows that working?

I on the other hand, have promised myself never to require medical attention for the rest of my natural days......(and as my friend Jeffrina says: Honey, there ain't nothing natural about it! So there you are......)

Sooooooo.......we had this great discussion about taste in food the other day. I have several friends who, when they talk: I listen. We were using salt as the ingredient that is so under or over used in dishes and how either way, can be the saving grace of a meal or its downfall. So how come, we here in California, are so in tune to flavorings of salt, sweet, hot, sour. It comprises basically all we look for in our foods and our desserts and snacks. And so we measure our foods and our likes and dislikes based on these things. I love the heat of chiles. I love the ying/yang of sour-sweet. But without the proper balance of the salt factor, they don't work as well. These are feelings in my mouth that become memorable to me while eating, and leave me wanting to taste more of that.

Gary and I have so many people in our lives that do not like "hot" dishes. It is so far away from our thoughts in taste, that we forget about people intolerant of hot foods, and if I were to go a step further, those unable to have salt. I have always feared being told I would not be able to eat items like onions, or garlic, or corn, or chiles. Or Salt. I know we can adapt to this restriction, but mentally, I am not that good of a soldier I am afraid. What if they told me I could not eat fruit? Or chocolate? Or (knock on wood and perish the thought:) YOU CANNOT DRINK WINE. (I am losing my breath just thinking about this now....holding it just in case holding my breath will ward off this ever happening to me.....I think I threw salt over my shoulder, crossed myself and spit on the ground.....JUST IN CASE.......)

(A funny story of a very good friend and my introduction to his eating habits: Gary and I have this wonderful friend named Jeff. Many, many many years ago, we invited him and a friend over for dinner. This was the first time we had him for dinner, and so I decided to try this incredible sounding beef brisket recipe from Paul Proudhome, the Cajun cook so famous in the late 70's and early 80's. His recipe was a dry rub with cayenne pepper, ancho chile powder, onion powder, black pepper, etc., that was self-marinating for about 6 hours, and then another 6 hours at a slow temp to cook this dish. Let me tell you it was fantastic......but......Jeff - the good mannered guest that he was, had a couple of bites of the dish and promptly excused himself from the table. I noticed he was blood red colored as he left, but I just assumed he has so so happy to be eating this fabulous food that he was over-whelmed with joy......

He was not.

It seems that poor Jeff is not able to even eat black pepper (WAY TO HOT!) and was dying from the heat of the chiles and the peppers. But , the good guest that he was, did not want to ruin my dinner with the steam coming out of his ears nor the blood-shot eyes covering his face.....Damn......I did not know....and to be honest, it was the first time I had ever experienced someone intolerant of hat or spicy flavors. Long story short: Jeff has been over many times since, but we limit it non-spicy dishes....)

(Poor man - used to be six foot tall, but I am sure we shrunk him down to 5'5" ....beware the power of chiles!!!)

Right now, I have a good world of food.....I can only hope that if you are restricted in your diets, that we can, here at Cafe Luna, adapt our menus to accommodate you correctly, giving you joy after joy in your mouth.......


Have been enjoying the last week in our yard at home. Lost 14 weeks due to construction on the outside of our home because they had to remove all the paint and plaster and then re-plaster and re-paint.

We were outside in the backyard yesterday. I was helping Gary by supervising his tile work project while I was sitting in a lounge-chair, and we opened a bottle of white wine, because, you know, during summer months, a bottle of crisp white is what we drink. So all of a sudden, the two of us had consumed the entire bottle. So what to do? Of course, trying to maintain the spirit of the event of my supervising Gary's tile project, we opened another bottle of crisp white wine, something we drink during the summer months because it would be gauche otherwise. Well, all of a sudden, we realized that the second bottle of wine was gone.

As Gary was steadfastly working on his tile project (and I am sure, thanking me silently for my valuable input) I was talking a mile a minute about how Grace Slick from the Jefferson Airplane had just turned 70 years old, and that I was sure that cowboys in America were all hiding out in Arizona waiting for John Travolta to make a new movie about ranch-riders, and about the constants we all have in life regarding reading a book and the values of passing that book on to the homeless people in the country, and had he noticed that when people and their pets hung out together, they really did start to look like each other, and what did he think about Chinese art as opposed to Keith Harring's artistic endeavors on the subways of New York, and why did it cost so much to make a long distance phone call on our land-line and yet it was included in our cell phone line, and how come women seemed to be getting more and more tattoo's with so much color, especially on the small of their backs, , and how the men kept getting tattoos of landscapes and moonscapes and how if he were to cut that one tile a bit more on the diagonal, his project would just turn out perfect.....

He on the other-hand....wished for the kind of guy who fell asleep in his chair after drinking a bottle of wine.....

And see? Now you know what a bonding experience wine can all of us....

UPDATE: Tomato plants at house: Zero (0).
We cut them down in defiance.......damn worms.......

Hey!!!! I want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to write me about the methods of removing those disgusting tomato worms....some of the methods were truly full of merit, and some of them.....well, I did not realize that voodoo was so prevalent in our little community......but, if it works......

The more I try to grow tomatoes, the more love the Farmers Market.....

We hope to see you soon, and hope you might drop a line of your tomato plant experiences.....and your favorite recipes and things to eat in the hearing from you.

Take care.

David at Cafe Luna

September Wine Notes


Gary, myself and some hard-core friends went wine tasting over the week end....We were invited over to Amador County to taste some of the new vintages, and also help with some wine pairings for a couple of coming events....what a hoot!!

Went to Jeff Runquist Winery and tasted all he had to offer.....funny thing, his list of tasting is about half from a couple of months ago, becasue they sold out of everything due to his winning of so many awards at the California State Fair. But.......his Amador Barbera is incredible!....and what a great dog they have there, Pearl, who greets each of us at the door (don't feed the dog!!!). Very deserving of the awards recieved....

Next we went to Dillian Winery, and met Tom the owner/wine-maker.
You know when you talk to someone on the phone, you have this mental picture of that person? Well with Tom, I had this picture of a guy about my age or so (55+), who was grey haired and looks like a pipe-smoker........well, he is probably 30 years old (or maybe younger....I can't tell peoples ages or their weights.....I am loved by many for this.....), and as exurburent as a guy can be. The fun and the information we found out about his winery, his family heritage (5th generation on that piece of land in Amador County), and his work plans were so great we all wanted to go out and just drink wine the rest of the day in celebration of him!!! (well, okay, we maybe were planning on drinking wine for the day anyway, but heck: life is a celebration and so we were celebrating TOM AT DILLION WINERY!!!) Now let me also tell you something else: this winery hit a 100% with all five of us for varietal tastings, pricing, and absolute lush flavors......we were so excited when we left his place that a little winery could be so great. And we mean that. GO HERE and relish in his incredible wines. Tell him you are a Luna/tic......he will either greet you warmly or throw you out....

Went to a new winery named Driven, sharing the same drive-way as Dobra Zemlja on Steiner Road. We met "Rudy", the dad of the clan. Thank gawd we get to meet other like minded wine people everywhere we go. This winery has only been opened up for about 3 months with one of the most spectacular views in Amador county...on top of the hill overlooking the entire valley....Beee-uuuu-teee-fulll! They have a great collection of old vinatage cars and tractors and farm equiptment on site and we enjoyed their new offerings of wine. Good luck and check them out.

Got to go to Wilderotter Vineyards and checked out their new vintages. This is a really nice wine tasting room, and the staff are fun and full of vinegar. We had fun with them and got to meet the owner/winemaker. I love how a wine maker has so much information about wine making, his philosophy of taste, and also his dreams....their wines, most notably the Sauvignon Blanc, are sensational.

And finally, C.G. DiArie. We went to the wine tasting room and met all the "girls" behind the bar. Friends of friends, we talked for at least an hour about some of th crazies we all knew collectively, and how much fun we were having. Gary and I have a special place in our hearts for this winery. The owners are good friends and we respect the heck out of them for the consistant prooduct that is just overwhelming. Love the fact that he is making wines out of the ordinary, introducing new varietals from Spain and Portugal that are so condusive to this area. Love his deep developed flavors and the fact that we are so lucky to have these people in our lives. Yahoo!!!

So, as usual: go visit the wineries. Go enjoy what our counties have to offer. Enjoy the best laid STAY-CATIONS you can imagine right here in our back yards. Pack a picnic, bring lots of water to drink, and enjoy what we love: good friends and a great place to find out something new about wines.

Please Note: Like a parent with many, many children: I am just noting some of our new wines on the list. The list of incredible wineries we represent is large. I am not choosing one over the other, just the new wines listed. (The only way I would choose one child of mine over the other is if they looked like me, only more handsome, or taller, or thinner, or maybe if they didn't look like me at is all so confusing.....I should have had kids....)
Double click on each line below to take you to a Printable copy of the menus, recipes and specials.

Copy of September 2009 Menu


Recipe: Cafe Luna Cream Cheese Spread

Recipe: Cafe Luna Quick Basic Curry Base
This Months Menu High-Lights.....

New This Menu:

Well my friends, the menu change has been a hit! The two page format with one page of appetizers and light entree's along with several salads has been very much of a tasting menu for a lot of you. Thank you!!!

Main Entrees

Mediterranean Seafood Stew - Did you know Gary is half Portuguese? His Mom's family was from the beautiful Azores - an incredible tropical island that we will someday visit. His mom was also the kind of cook that could make mud-pies taste good. She taught me the benefit of Linguisa sausage and the role it plays in Portuguese cooking. Kind of like our bacon. The Linguisa renders its fat, and that is used to saute and other parts of the dish, gathering layer after layer of flavors. We are taking large prawns, cod fish and clams, sauteing them with Linguisa, tomatoes and white onions, finishing them with a great saffron stock and fresh fennel sauce, and serving with a mound of Basmati rice. Wonderful. So good sometimes it hurts.

Prawns ala' Casa Gary and I were fortunate to have gone to this great hotel on the beaches of Mexico. The town is named "Troncones" and it is outside of Ixtapa on the coast. It is named Casa de la Serena (double click the name to take your to their web-site).. Debbie and Mike are great hosts, and have a wonderful place for us to totally "veg" out at. The avocado's are the size of my little nephews head (the 5 year old, not the 18 year old), the fish is caught right outside in the ocean and brought to the front door each morning for us to look at and purchase off the boat, and the people are soooooo laid back (groovey man...), that all you can do is relax. So that is what we are going to do again this January.
But I digress.....the Prawns! The Prawns!!! One day, we ordered 2 kilos of fresh prawns and the six of us looked at the amount of them, and said "there is no way we are going to eat all of these.....we will have to invite the village for an after dinner-dinner to eat the rest." (we are very generous that way.....) But we cleaned them, keeping the shells intact, marinated them in a puree of chiles, limes, mangos and oranges, and then barbecued them on an open flame in the shells and started to eat. Well, let me say this with all honesty: I have never seen Sheri or Sally eat so much in my entire life! The men just sat back and told them to please help themselves, thinking they would just eat a little bit, then tell us "I'm so full::::I couldn't eat another thing!" But nooooo.....our little tank-girls consumed more than their fair share, and we poor guys starved and had to subsist on Gold tequila and guacamole. Well, long story short: they are fantastic cooked in the shells, more flavor than you can imagine, messy but soooo good.....try these....Extra napkins on request.

Salmon Wellington - Fresh Pacific salmon filets topped with caramelized leeks and carrots, rubbed with French mustard and tarragon, wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden. Served topped with a light Meyer lemon beurre blanc. Dee-lish!!!!

Jerk Pork - The "HOT-HEAD" selection this month. I love "jerked" meats and vegetables, and believe it or not, the first place we tasted it was in Cozumel, Mexico. The influenences of the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba and South America on this little island made my gastronomical juices happier than they have ever been. Hot. No, I mean really, really HOT and spicy and sweet and aromatic and full of flavors that between sweating and dripping, I was ohhh-ing and ahh-ing so much that I wanted to forget about getting back on the cruise ship and just stay there and simmer away....That good. We are taking our Jerk sauce, made with about 25 ingredients of fresh herbs, vegetables and many spices, pureed to a smooth paste, and then cooking the boneless pork and vegetables until they are tender and full of this wonderfulness that HotHeads crave: a #9 on the heat scale. If you love hot spicy foods, you are in heaven. The nice part about this is it can also be a vegetarian option, as the base is meatless. So there Mr. at last.

Appetizers, Small Plates and Light Entrees

Whoo-hoo! Our best girl-friend Sally steered me into this new region of smaller plates and things to try. She is my food concious, the one in the white robe sitting on my right shoulder while I sit on my left shoulder - usually with red on and horns.....

Stuffed Figs: Fresh figs stuffed with Gorgonzola Dolcelatte cheese, wrapped in Proscuitto, and served topped with a bit of a raspberry and Balsamic "gastrique"... a wonderful slowly reduced sauce thick enough to stay on your plate and packed with flavor. Get them while they last.

Market Pasta: Angel hair pasta, tossed with a bit of butter, fresh chopped Heirloom tomatoes, topped with our house-made pesto sauce. Simple, flavorful and to the point.
Ahi Tuna: Rare Ahi tuna, on a bed of baby greens, topped with an Italian infused Meyer lemon olive oil, served with a red chile aioli with toasts.

Gary's Mac and Cheese: He still amazes me after all these years. Still my favorite version, having tasted hundreds of versions of this confort dish. Macaroni pasta, with minced sauteed wild mushrooms, three kinds of cheese, topped with a crunchy topping, baked and topped with a spoonful of sour cream. What could be better than this?

Torta Rustica: Individual puff pastry pies, filled with sauteed veggies, Mozzarella cheese, baked until golden, and served topped with a bit of a roasted garlic and basil cream sauce. Another vegetable dish that makes you forget about meats.

Italian Sausage Polenta: Italian-style polenta cooked slowly with basil, thyme, Parmesan cheese and diced Italian sausages, cut into wedges, pan-sauteed until a bit golden, and then served layered with our house-made Marinara sauce and topped with Fontina cheese and broiled until golden and bubbly.....enough said.

Salade Nicoise - Lightly Dijon dressed greens topped with steamed potatoes, hard cooked eggs, steamed French green beans, artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoe, caper and Nicoise olives then slices of charred rare Ahi Tuna......see picture above.....its delicious.....

Sesame Noodle Salad - Thin noodles dressed in our own Peanut Sesame dressing, topped with celey, carrot slivers, scallions basil and cilantro, and chopped peanuts, served on a bed of baby greens. Served cold, this is such a hot summer dish!!!