Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year from Caliblini Personal Chef Service!

The last dinner party of 2015 was:

Roasted garlic and herb focaccia

Cream of mushroom soup
Fennel and orange salad with walnuts

Chicken roasted with garlic and thyme
Roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate
Smashed red potatoes

Fruit and berry crumble

Now working on menus for 2016!

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Shaken and Stirred. Trinity School parents annual party

This year the annual gathering of Trinity School parents was a cocktail party instead of the usual dinner. “Shaken and Stirred”. The heavy appetizers menu theme was fast food with a twist.


Tomato soup shots with grilled cheese sandwich
Caviar potato chips
Tuna tartare potato chips
Lobster rolls
Grass-fed beef sliders with foie gras on brioche rolls, heirloom tomato slices, cornichons
Truffle French fries, saffron aioli
Pizza Margherita, morel mushroom and goat cheese pizza, pancetta and arugula pizza
Mac’n’cheese with variety of toppings

Tuna tartare: sushi grade tuna, lemon juice, wasabi powder, sesame oil, tamari soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, micro greens, homemade potato chips.

Bellweather Farm creme fraiche and sevruga caviar on homemade potato chip.

Langostino, shrimp, and lobster salad on sweet Hawaiian roll.

Fresh ground beef chuck sliders, havarti, seared foie gras, heirloom tomato, cornichons, on brioche roll.

Tomato soup shots with wasabi grilled cheddar and Gruyere sandwiches.

Thank to my hard-working sous chef Brenda for dealing with all these potatoes and hot oil, to super-professional servers Paula and Jim, to the wonderful bartenders, to Trinity moms Gilliam and Stephanie for organizing the party, and for providing all the ingredients for the pizzas, and beautiful, imaginative and fun desserts, and of course to our dear hosts, Wendy and Stefan!

Cigarette cookies

Panna cotta martinis with chocolate olive

Piña colada jelly; Irish coffee cupcakes.

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Location:Palo Alto, CA

A night of music and food

Last week I got a call from Bettina Devin, she needed help with food for a party. One of her favorite students, talented and beautiful singer/songwriter Chloe Jean had released her first album, the release party was happening in a new stylish San Francisco night club Hawthorn on Thursday, November 6, and Bettina was responsible for the party appetizers for a little over 200 people who RSVPd for the event. Of course, I wanted to help!

After a brief brainstorming session we came up with a menu that was elegant and satisfying, and could be executed and served to a hungry mid-week crowd on a short notice and tight budget, in a club with no kitchen, with the help of a few friends and students.

Bettina put in long hours making tons of chicken liver pate and 200 deviled eggs, three different flavors. One of her students enlisted her whole family to make a huge tray of lumpia, Filipino fried rolls. I searched Bay Area ethnic stores for interesting finger foods, and prepared a few spreads to serve on toast, and two flavors of homemade hummus. Just before leaving for the party, I put 200 cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella balls (my basil plant is gone, cut to the ground; the local stores are out of mozzarella balls), and 200 sausage bites with cornichons, on skewers.

We set up the food serving station in the back room bar. The star herself, Chloe, came over when she had a minute to help us to set up the tables!

Then the guests arrived, the music was beautiful, we danced, and everybody loved the food!

The menu:

Marinated green and black olives
Deviled eggs (Dijon, curry, wasabi)
Smoked salmon spread on rice crackers
Stuffed grape leaves
Chicken liver pate on water crackers
Crudite with hummus (mild or spicy)
Cannellini beans bruschetta with pickled red onions
Minted green pea and ricotta bruschetta
Caprese skewers
Smoked sausage skewers
Cream puffs

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Magician’s Birthday

On a gorgeous summer afternoon friends and family gathered for a garden party by the pool to celebrate the birthday of a magical silk painting artist of international fame, tireless world traveller, and a beautiful woman Natasha Foucault.

Natasha’s art transforms everyone: the ladies were more beautiful than ever, wearing Natasha’s hand-painted silks, the men had her custom-made ties, and everyone was inspired by her art, her charm, and travel stories.

I had the honor to prepare the festive dinner for my art teacher and friend. Both Natasha and I were born and raised in Russia, and we love Russian cuisine, so we decided to start the dinner with zakuski, the traditional appetizer spread.

Natasha is a connoisseur of wild mushrooms, and an experienced mushroom hunter. She supplied a wealth of the finest wild mushrooms that she had collected in Northern California last season and saved in the freezer for the party.

Porcinis, chanterelles, slippery jacks – these mushrooms may seem rare and exotic to a modern Californian, but they are dear and familiar to any Russian mushroom hunter, and their aromas bring memories of childhood, of dark dense forest, sunny meadows, cool streams under shady trees, the far-away land that we still consider our own. It was such an exquisite pleasure to create both traditional and modern “fusion” dishes with these darling fungi!

For the main course we needed something simple, something that could be prepared and enjoyed while the temperature was still in the 90-ies. I opted for the grill. It is somewhat tough to grill meat, fish, and vegetables for 40 people in 95 degrees, with the sun shining straight on your back while the grill flares up in your face, but the pool made it much easier. As soon as everything was grilled and while the guests were helping themselves at my hot buffet, I got out of my chef’s coat and into the pool, and came to the table totally refreshed.

The tables were set on the lawn. While we were enjoying the meal, saying toasts and drinking wines from around the world to the health and happiness of our friend, the sun went down, the temperature dropped a little, and the host turned on the pool lighting to make our night under the stars even more magical. Then there was music, dancing, more wine, and simple and perfect seasonal fruits for the dessert.

Happy birthday, dear magician, happy birthday to you!

The menu:

Russian potato salad (Olivier)
Mushroom piroshki
Cabbage piroshki
Chicken liver mousse
Exotic mushrooms pate, porcini topping
Chanterelle, goat cheese, and caramelized onion tartlets
Assorted cold cuts
Breads, crackers

Grilled marinated beef tri-tip
Grilled Alaskan wild salmon
Assorted grilled vegetable skewers

Raw fruit and berry crumble with almonds

Chanterelles, goat cheese and caramelized onion tartlets
Makes 12

For the mushrooms:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
8 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, fresh or frozen, thawed
salt, pepper
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and stems discarded

For the caramelized onion:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the goat cheese filling:
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 egg

1 sheet of purchased frozen all-butter puff pastry (Dufour), thawed in the refrigerator

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 Tbsp water

Heat olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, add thyme leaves. Sauté until all the water released from the mushrooms has evaporated. Let cool.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté till it starts to turn golden. Add balsamic vinegar, cook to reduce to syrupy consistency. Let cool.

Mix goat cheese with cream and egg to make the cheese filling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the puff pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap. Remove the top plastic, slice the pastry into 12 squares. Turn the squares oven onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, remove the plastic. With a 3-inch round cookie cutter, mark a circle in the middle of each square, taking care not to cut all the way through. Freeze.

Mix egg and water for the egg wash.

Remove the puff pastry from freezer. Spread some goat cheese filling inside the marked circles. Top with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms. Brush the border with egg wash. Bake until the pastry has puffed and the border is golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

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Location:Redwood City, CA

Last dinner on the Titanic

“Inside this floating palace that spring evening in 1912, warmth and lights, the hum of voices, the gay lilt of a German waltz – the unheeding sounds of a small world bent on pleasure” – First-class passenger Lady Duff-Gordon

On April 14, 100 years after the first technological catastrophe of the modern era, sinking of the Titanic, we attempted to recreate a part of the last dinner served to the first class passengers. The original menu from the first class dining saloon survived, and the authors of the beautiful book “Last Dinner on the Titanic. Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner” did a great job of restoring the recipes, based on memoirs of the survivors, period recipes from upscale restaurants and hotels, and educated guesses. They also restored the menus from the a la carte restaurant and the second- and third- class dining rooms.

The first class menu included 11 courses, with a few selections in each. For our small party of five that would be too much, both cooking and eating; I decided to make a few dishes from that menu as close to the original as I could, in memory of the chefs and cooks who went down with the Titanic on that terrible night, and serve it in the period style and using the period dinnerware.

Many thanks to my dear guests for their company, excellent wines, photographing the food (I would never manage it myself, running around serving eight courses of small portions), and help with the dishes, that are, in the best Edwardian tradition, not dishwasher safe.

R.M.S. Titanic

Dinner menu
April, 14, 2012
First class dinner saloon

Canapé a’l Admiral
Consommé Olga
Chicken Lyonnaise
Asparagus salad, champagne saffron vinaigrette
Beef fillet Forestier
Cheeses and salumi, fresh fruits
Madagascar vanilla ice cream
Chocolate pudding

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Russian appetizers menu in British Bankers Club for the New Years Eve

I’ve been working with the executive chef of British Bankers Club gastropub
in Menlo Park to add a gourmet Russian-style appetizers spread, “zakuski”, to their New Years Eve menu.

The “zakuski” menu includes Russian potato salad “Olivier”, my own version of a beet vinaigrette, smoked fish plate, cold meat cuts, including beef tongue with horseradish sauce and chicken liver mousse, marinated vegetables assortment, and, of course, piroshki.

For a full-size holiday dinner, the chef created a nine-course menu that starts with zakuski and proceeds as a succession of courses of French and Central European origin, with his own unique twist.

Celebrate the New Year with good old-world food, good drinks, music, and dancing: http://www.facebook.com/events/173791082716666/

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Location:Menlo Park, CA

Healthy Cooking Demo Menu

This year I will be doing a healthy cooking demo at corporate health and wellness fairs again.

Here is what I will be cooking this week:

Cucumber salad with yogurt and mint

Shrimp with mango-basil dipping sauce

What I love about being a personal chef #3: hanging out with other chefs

For this month’s meeting of our Bay Area Chapter of US Personal Chefs Association, we went on a foodie tour, exploring food places of West Marin County. As often happens in our business, many of the chefs got busy at the last minute, and only five of us made it to the meeting, turning it into small, casual family gathering.

We started with an oyster farm tour at Hog Island Oyster Company. The farm manager showed us how they grow their oysters in submerged wire basket, told us about oyster’s life cycle, science and technology that go into farming oysters, and seafood safety. We were amazed to learn that even a simple Pacifica oyster takes two years to reach market size. For the tiny delicate Kumamoto oyster it’s three years. I will never complain again about the price of fresh oysters.

Then we sat at a rustic picnic table by the water, and were served fresh sweet water Pacificas, Kumamotos, BBQ oysters with the farm’s signature chipotle-bourbon-garlic butter, Cowgirl Creamery soft-ripened cheese rolled in fresh herbs and edible flowers, and Carneros Brut Rose sparkling wine.

Our next stop was Point Reyes Winery. We tasted their well-aged, medium-bodied wines made of grapes grown in cool coastal areas. One of my favorites was 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, and then I was tale that the winery gets it’s Cabernet grapes from a friend, who grows them in a small vineyard in Terra Linda, just blocks from where I live!

After unsuccessful attempt to engage the cows at the nearby dairy farm in a photo session, we proceeded to downtown Point Reyes Station to do our grocery shopping at the delightful Palace Market, and then to chef Garbo’s charming Inverness country house, to cook our dinner.

The menu was:

Chef Garbo’s Side Car cocktails
Crostini with fig jam and Brie by chef Dawn
Shrimp skewers appetizer by chef Kara
Wine-marinated cedar plank grilled salmon by chef Greg
Chef Greg’s green beans
Grilled butterflied leg of lamb with chimichurri by chef Polina
Chef Dawn’s sweet potato and wild mushroom gratin

We had to abandon all our dessert ideas, since no one had room for the dessert anyway.

We enjoyed cooking together, talked business and food, exchanged tips and tricks about grilling, knife sharpening, using kitchen gadgets, admired chef Garbo’s food styling studio and a beautiful collection of vintage styling props, and generally had a great time.

The next morning my boyfriend and I traditionally missed the chefs breakfast chez Garbo, and instead had coffee and last nights leftovers for breakfast on the beach in front of our hotel room. Then we went for a hike in the hills overlooking Point Reyes seashore, where we saw large herds of elk, a few deer, a coyote, and where I almost stepped on a snake.

On the way back I stopped at a butcher shop on Marin Sun Farms to get grass fed steaks for the grill.

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Location:Inverness, CA

Shooting vegetables: Garden photography class

On a beautiful August day, when summer vegetables look their best and the vineyards are heavy with grapes getting ready for the harvest, Kendall-Jackson winery  invited a local nature photographer Leagh Wachter to teach a photography class in their extensive vegetable garden and on the demo vineyard. The garden photography class was designed for those who are not content with just sipping wine and sampling fruits and vegetables, but who also want to capture their beauty. Of course, I am one of them! Having found out about the class at the last moment, I managed to get in.

I said it was a beautiful August day. Well, it was a good day for photography: the morning fog lifted a little by 9 am, but the sun never came out; it remained overcast (and cold!) all morning, giving us perfect diffused light for the duration of the class.

I arrived partially frozen in my convertible, and was greeted, together with other students, by Leagh, winery’s estate manager Robin, and Jack the cat, who, despite his impressive size, moves very fast, and is difficult to convince to pose for a picture. It wasn’t a wildlife photography class after all.

Behind the tasting room, on the outdoor patio, the kitchen staff had just started fire in their pizza oven. Later on I watched the chef taking temperature of the oven – it was 880 degrees then. In the morning it was just hot enough to help thaw my frozen fingers in front of the wood fire.

The day started with a sip of Kendall-Jackson new partially un-oaked Chardonnay, Avant, which they pare with fried green tomatoes topped with goat cheese, to highlight the tart and creamy aspects of the wine.

Then Leagh gave us a short lecture on specifics of outdoor lighting, sharing tips on when to shoot (early morning and early evening light are the best), how to select the light angle, use a diffuser (a cardboard frame filled with semi-transparent parchment paper) to tame harsh afternoon light, and a sheet of white paper held in front of the subject to fill in. He handled us printouts illustrating the same subjects photographed in different lighting, with different depth of field, and different composition.

After that all 25 of us, with our iPhones, point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs, were released to roam the garden and the vineyard. Leagh would go from one student to another, giving advise and ideas what to try.

Two hours later, we gathered for another wine and food pairing. The winery’s culinary staff pair their Monterey county Pinot Noir with brick oven pizzas with roasted tomatoes, either vegetarian Margherita, or topped with sausages, artichokes, and mushrooms.

Kendall-Jackson people are obsessed with heirloom tomatoes. Half of the vegetable garden is taken by 175 varieties of them, arranged by color, and the next weekend they have their annual heirloom tomato festival. Sadly, this cold year was not the best for tomatoes. Most of them, except the cherry varieties, are just beginning to turn colors. The rest of the garden is organized by flavor profile, grouping together vegetables, fruits, and herbs that would compliment the same wine.

After the class some of us went for a complimentary wine tasting that the winery threw in with the class, others continued experimenting with picturing vegetables and grapes.

It felt like a very relaxing experience, and i was delighted by the opportunity to see and picture my favorite foodstuffs in their natural setting, but I was nearly exhausted after all the hours of hauling my heavy zoom camera around, kneeling, crawling, bending and twisting, trying to get close-up and the best angle.

Now I am looking forward to the next class in fall, when the vines will turn colors. Please, don’t let it rain then!

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Location:Santa Rosa, CA

Losing Weight during the Holidays and Beyond

I am teaming up with Masha Rosen, CCH, Certified Classical Homeopath, and Elena Makarova , MA, MFT Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, to put together an interactive workshop on healthy holidays without gaining weight.

When: Sunday, November 14, 2010 from 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM (PT)
Where: Foster City, CA

Tickets on Eventbrite.


Thank you all participants and presenters! The healthy eating workshop was a success. Masha talked about holistic approach to food, using natural ingredients, microbiotic cooking, and avoiding cravings; Elena’s presentation turned into a cordial discussion about cultural and family influences on our relationship with food, while your personal chef Polina prepared a simple, delicious, and healthy holiday meal in front of the participants, conducted food tasting, and shared recipes.

The menu:

Zucchini and daikon salad with meyer lemon vinaigrette

Homemade sauerkraut

Roast free-range chicken with garlic, rosemary and thyme

Roasted sweet potatoes and yams

Apple clafoutis with almonds

At the end of the event the presenters demonstrated our joint collection of rare and exotic cooking salts, and everyone shared shopping, cooking and eating tips and stories.