Ruth Reichel & Food Chat

I just got back from jewelry shopping at my wonderful friend, Meghan’s house. She always throws the best parties and always, ALWAYS has the cutest baked good to go along with! Tonight, she her frosted cupcakes matched Stell & Dot’s signature silver and uh…blue, teal, I don’t know what that pretty color is officially called. On the way over I learned something interesting. You’ve probably heard about using Olive Oil for cooking instead of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Once you heat your pan, the EV in EVOO goes bye-bye.

Guess what? The same thing happens with expensive onions. Sweet onions, sometimes called Vidalia onions are $4 or $5 a pound, versus brown or storage onions which should be around $1 a pound.

The chemistry of the Vidalia breaks down in heat and all of that precious flavor evaporates! What you are left with is a bit of a flavorless onion. Go fig! So the rule is, if you plan to use EVOO cold (as a salad dressing or drizzled on other food) or onions uncooked (in a salad or diced up as a topping) then you will want to spend the extra dough. If your plan is to heat up a pan, go cheap!

Have you ever seen this book? It’s a great read about a really famous food critic who disguises herself before tasting some of New York’s top restaurants. I loved this book and now I am so excited to have discovered that it’s on the way to becoming a movie. Ruth Reichl was interviewed in 2009 for NPR and the interview was replayed tonight. Reichl discussed one of her most popular dishes, which is also her “go to” dinner, Spaghetti Carbonara.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 3

Contrary to the recipe so often used in restaurants, real carbonara contains no cream. The real thing also uses guanciale, cured pork jowl, but to be honest, I like bacon better. I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast. It’s the perfect last minute dinner, and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t like it.

  • 1 pound spaghetti

  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon (I prefer Nueske’s)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throwthe spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook,and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won’t meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.

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One last thing…Happy Birthday Dad!

My Night at Dosa


Yum. That pretty much sums it up, folks. Oh, in detail? Ok, let me start from the top then.

A half-dozen of us East Bay gals headed to the big, bad city.  I lived in San Francisco while in college. For  years after that, I would drive through S.F. and tell my husband that the city just felt like home. How times have changed! Two kids and a few sunny, suburban years later I am back to being totally intimidated by the fog laden, concrete maze.

Wrapping my hair with my hands, (to prevent pre-dinner frizz) we hurried from our parking spot a couple blocks up the road to our location, Dosa! Our group organizer and her sister (who was with us too) have frequented Dosa and offered some great recommendations. Dosa is across the street from a new (to me at least) movie theater in what seems to be the Pac Heights-Japantown-Fillmore district. PacJaMore, anyone? No takers? Ok, on to the drinks.

The majority of Dosa’s drinks start with gin, which is not my favorite. I chose instead to start with a non-alcoholic Indian Monsoon, which is described as, “Muddled citrus, mint & ginger with pomegranate & mango juice, splash of soda.”

My description? Mmm. Nice and fresh with an interesting depth. I know I mentioned wanting to drink the Bollywood Hills, but once the waitress described the drink as a savory martini, I decided to pass.

The majority of us opted for the tasting menu, which offers three courses for $35. First up, Chennai Chicken. We were warned ahead a time that this first dish would be spicy and while it was, there was also a side of cool raita (cucumber yogurt.) The chicken is organic and boneless and marinated in Straus yogurt with coriander and cumin and then fried. My friend Lisa described these as Indian buffalo wings. The sides of yogurt, lemon and red onion really balanced the spice out.

Dosa offers a South Indian “home-style” cuisine, which is different from the heavier, clay pot type Indian food I am used to eating, which comes from the north. Their specialty is dosa, which is a savory crepe like food, constructed from rice and lentils. The combo of rice and lentil almost never gets me excited. I truly considered skipping this course, thankfully I didn’t! Rice and lentils always surprise me and I have to remember that half of the world’s meals are made from these two basic ingredients. Don’t quote me on that statistic, I just pulled that one out of my, uh…head.

The dosa I chose was Summer Vegetable, loaded with collard greens, bell peppers, ground lentils & chiles. Each dosa comes with three dipping sauces, if you will. Coconut & tomato chutneys along with sambar, a lentil dipping soup. Can’t escape the lentil in this course, can you? I was so pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite.

Better, right?

It was after my dosa I realized that I need a cocktail! I couldn’t blog about my dinner without a cocktail, right? See, Food it Forward is keeping me well nourished and hydrated. My pal had ordered her second Ginger Ante, so I thought I would follow suit.

Ginger Ante – Goslings Black Seal Rum, ginger jaggery nectar, fresh lime, ginger ale, over ice

What a mysterious drink! It tastes as deep and frosty as it looks. The rum is so smooth and barely noticable (aka: dangerous.) The smell of the giant rosemary garnish adds to the complex mix of flavors that the Ginger Ante offers up. We couldn’t quite put our finger on the sweetness that filled the middle of this drink. Jody (my co-ginger ante pal) mentioned she tasted apricot. Looking further into ginger jaggery nectar, I found …nothing. What is ginger jaggery nectar, anyone know? Another reviewer mentioned that this drink would be a perfect cocktail to serve at Thanksgiving and one more deemed it, dark and stormy. Perfect descriptions.

Third course is on its way. Who’s ready for a big pot pie?

Not really, this is Channa, which comes with… Bhatura.

Together they make…Channa Bhatura. Which is the most exotic way you can imagine to say, bread and lentils! This was the main entree for our hostess, Gheeta. My third course was Shrimp Masala. This loosely translates to hot, creamy masala flavored bowl of shrimp with coconut rice and cool yogurt. Please know that I’m lying again.

Coconut milk, red chiles, ginger, onions & spices.hile this part of the meal was as delicious as any other, it reminded me the most of the North Indian cuisine that I love. Once again folks, I sacrificed for you. I had dessert. While tempted to order something special to Dosa, like their Coconut Custard Cake or Rasmalai (a sweet vermecilli dish), I stuck with familiar chocolate. Bad move.

Gheeta ordered the cake as well and thought it was really dry. I didn’t love the deep flavor in this cake. The menu says the cake is over a 3 spiced creme anglaise. Let me translate that for you. Creamy, cinnamonISH dipping sauce for your standard frozen, microwavable cake dish. Not the best way to end a great meal.

Otherwise, Dosa was a fantastic experience. I was with such a sweet, fun group of moms. I was out of my bubble of a suburb. I tried new foods and I laughed, a lot! I’m still trying to wake up with my cup of coffee and decide how to repad my bank account. Did I mention that last night’s meal set me back $75? Um, yeah…I’ve got some ebaying to do.

Impromptu Vacation




We were invited up to Angels Camp (gold country) for the night. It is so beautiful at this creek side home of cottages. There is plenty to do, but the boys are interested in doing is swimming and playing on the swings. Dinner is yet to come, so not much on the food front. More than anything I just wanted to say hello!

No News is Good Gnus

I would wake up at 5 am to see Gary Gnu and The Great Space Coaster back in the day. Anyhow, like I said, no real news here today. I spent the day actually hanging out with my kids. Leftovers for lunch, Whole Foods pizza for dinner and an evening kid’s concert. I am so ready for my night out tomorrow!

Tomorrow is Friday and I can feel it in me bones. I’m actually going to attempt to cook something with my kids. Wish me more than luck! I don’t know what I’ll try to whip up, but I’m sure it will be something messy and involving sugar. Oh, hey…it’s a buy one get one free drink week at Peet’s right now. Head over to and sign up for their emails. You’ll get your coupon to print or you can just show the cashier your phone. I love Peet’s! They serve up caffeine with a side of coffee.

Do you remember how I mentioned Dosa a couple weeks back? It’s a swanky San Francisco spot with local, organic (when possible), Indian fare. I’m headed there tomorrow night with some fellow moms. Hoochie Coochie! Well, that doesn’t seem like the right saying, but I’m really trying to branch out from Boo-yeah. You know what else? Dosa is rumored to have some serious, yet delectable drinks!

In other food news, tomorrow night Dallas will try his first Slurpee! Crazy, eh? He’s four and he’s never tasted the sugar that paid for his mom to go to college. Luckily, he’s spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa. Brain freeze will not be on my list of worries tomorrow night!

Packing Lunches

Ah, lunch ladies.

Whether you have a little one to send off to preschool, a medium one to send off to middle school or maybe a jumbo one to send off to work, chances are they are gonna need lunch. This year, Dallas changes from two to three days a week of preschool and I am looking forward to a little more freedom time to do chores. Ahem.

I thought I was really on to something last year, when I heated up some frozen mini-burgers in the morning for Dallas’ lunch and sent him on his way. The second time I did this, he came home with food poisoning. The lady who parked next to me at Trader Joe’s was not happy when she got back to her car and there was mini-burger all over the pavement next to her.

Proof of bad lunch packing.

I plan to be more on the ball this year! Seriously, I do! If anyone can find the ball, let me know. I just never seem to be on it, always behind it. Insert joke here.

Ok, enough chatting, let’s round up some of the best lunch packin’ sites around. Yeehaw! 
This Lunch Rox is hands down, one of my favorite. With a healthy mindset, this mom creates some seriously entertaining lunches for her kids. Her themes range from geography to skateboarding!
Another Lunch hasn’t updated her website all summer, but I don’t hesitate to add it to our list. You can browse old blog posts and really learn some great tips. While some of the lunches on this site are not as healthy as those found on or, it is still a great springboard for ideas. Give it a look! is a really cute site with some great tutorials, like this one for Raspberry Raisin Carrot Slaw. Be sure to check out her Bento Box Gallery!
You can always trust the Muffin Tin Mom to have some inspiring ingredients in her bakeware! Muffin tins are a great way to deliver snacks to a curious toddler in the morning or a starving twelve year old after school.
The Lunch Box blog may be of interest to those of you wanting to see change in the public school lunch system. Want to learn how to implement a salad bar at your child’s cafeteria, well here ya go!
What’s For Lunch Honey is pretty to look at. I’ll never have time to make anything on this gorgeous blog. It’s nice to dream about what my food may look like once my kids leave me alone for more than 30 seconds at a time.
In other news. What I mean to say is, in other REALLY good news, I’ve finished the laundry.
Remind you of anything?
The Heap lives down at Fraggle Rock.