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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Vegetarian dinner party tonight

Because it’s spring, I used lots of fresh herbs and edible flowers from the garden to garnish the dishes. I was also fortunate to find ramps and fresh porcini mushrooms at Sigona’s Farmers Market, and got Italian heritage polenta from the Front Porch Farm, they really made my appetizer shine.


Polenta crostini with wild mushroom ragout

Green pea and spring garlic soup
Butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli, lemon cream sauce

Ice cream with hot chocolate sauce and port-soaked fig

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Location:Los Altos, CA

Sunday BBQ menu today

Sunday BBQ menu for my neighbors Toyota of Marin:

Fire roasted pepper salad with arugula and pine nuts
German potato salad
Four bean salad
Grilled beef fillet with bacon and sage, chimichurri sauce
Beef burgers, heirloom tomato slices, pickles, marinated red onions
Marinated chicken skewers, plum sauce
Beef hot dogs

Grilled eggplant, baby zucchini, and mushrooms
Grilled peaches
Summer fruit bowl

The afternoon was perfect, the grill hot, the drinks (mixed by the host/bartender) cold, and everyone enjoyed the beautiful Terra Linda view. The hot dogs were the favorite of the kids, the steaks and the grilled white peaches of the adults. Everyone loved the salads.

I didn’t take any pictures – I had my BBQ mitts on all the time – you’d have to trust me, it was a gorgeous party 🙂

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Location:San Rafael, CA

How to shrink a chicken. Trinity School parents Pinot Noir tasting and annual dinner.

The long dinner table was set up on the lawn, next to the pool. On a warm Palo Alto night just four patio heaters were enough to keep all 30 guests comfortable.

After sampling the oysters and an assortment of appetizers, the guests proceeded to the dining room, converted for the evening into a tasting room, for comparative tasting of California and Oregon Pinot Noir.

Keeping up the Pacific Northwest theme, I selected local ingredients in season for the main menu.

The oysters came fresh out of the water from Tomales Bay Oyster Company, my favorite picnic spot, and the growers of Pacifica oysters (good all year around, the water in the bay is always cool).

Devil’s Gulch Ranch, located just a few miles from my home, produces excellent jumbo quails, in addition to rabbit, lamb, and pork. I met Mark, the farmer, early in the morning, on his way to the Farmers Market, to pick up my order of fresh quails. The tiny birds are one of the easiest things to cook. They are so tasty that they don’t need any additional flavoring. I rubbed the whole birds with salt, pepper, and olive oil, let them sit, refrigerated, for a couple of hours, quickly browned them with more olive oil over medium-high heat, then finished them in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Another simple way to cook quails is to cut out the backbone with kitchen scissors, flatten the bird by lightly pressing it with your hand against the cutting board, salt, pepper, olive oil, then on to a pre-heated grill, 4 minutes per side. The only mistake that you can make with quails is to overcook them. The meat has to be a little pink at the bone, or it will be dry – and this can be a matter of 1 or 2 minutes – so check your quails frequently; as soon as they feel firm, they are done.

The conversation was flowing. Since quails are not the most common menu item, the running joke at the table was “How do you shrink a chicken to such a small size?” I just told you how.

After dinner everyone enjoyed a trio of homemade ice creams, and an assortment of sweets and homemade limoncello, cherry, and blackberry infusions, served from charming tiny bottles, with their coffee.



*Tomales Bay Oysters*

*Tartlets with Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onions*

*Heirloom Tomato Basil Soup shots*

*Hummus, Romesco and Herbed Goat Cheese Dips with Flatbread*


Arugula and Orange Salad with Salmon Cakes, roasted garlic and orange aioli


Roasted Devils Gulch Ranch Quail

with Sweet Peas and Shallots accompanied with Wild Rice


Assortment of Cheese

Terrine of Homemade Vanilla Pistachio and Strawberry Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

Maple Ice Cream with Bacon Brittle


Sweets & Coffee

Thank you, Uncle D, for being my sous-chef and oyster man, thank you, servers Brian and Susana, for your very professional service and help in the kitchen, thank you, Trinity moms Stephanie and Gillian, for organizing the event, and for the amazing homemade ice cream, sweets, and fruit infusions, and thank you, dear hosts Wendy and Stefan for putting it all together!

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Table settings

If there is anything that I love as much as good food, it’s a good table setting. Even before you start the dinner, seeing the table can get you in the mood and excite your appetite.

In my line of work, I don’t get to set up the table very often. Normally, I cook and package food for my clients, and they serve it later, in whatever setting they like.

This weekend I was lucky to have a chance to decorate the table twice.

Saturday was an all-girls birthday party, themed “50 Shades of Grey”.

The menu:
Young onion, bacon, and gruyere tart
Antipasto skewers

Butternut squash soup with orange and chai spices

Roasted beets with baby arugula, goat cheese, and walnuts; sherry vinaigrette

Halibut Meyer lemon butter
Roasted Brussels sprouts with orange
Baby root vegetables bagna cauda
Wild rice pilaf

Chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce

On Sunday I prepared a very similar menu for an early dinner in my sunny backyard with my dear friends I. and V. The table setting made it look and feel completely different.
I. follows a gluten- and dairy-free diet, so I couldn’t make my favorite savory tart. I could treat her to a cream of cauliflower soup, that doesn’t contain any cream but still has a creamy texture from the pureed cauliflower. However she brought a delicious pear tart for the dessert that she couldn’t eat herself. V. And I enjoyed it a lot!

Italian cold meat cuts

Cream of cauliflower soup

Baby arugula salad with roasted beets and walnuts

Halibut baked in parchment with baby root vegetables
Meyer lemon asparagus
Orange Brussels sprouts

Pear tart from Trader Joe’s

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Dinner party menu tonight

One of the guests tonight was a vegetarian, so most of the menu is vegetarian, to make sure that everyone can eat it. The main course is fish, with a vegetarian option.

I wish I could take more, and better, pictures, while cooking for dinner parties. Usually, though, I’m so busy cooking, tasting, and interacting with the hosts (and their wonderful pets) that most of the food goes uncaptured.

The menu tonight:

Tartlets with goat cheese and caramelized onion
Eggplant caponata on toast
Carrot and orange soup

Heirloom tomato Caprese salad

Pan-fried halibut, creamy mushroom sauce
Stuffed portabello mushroom (vegetarian option)
Quinoa with zucchini and lemon
Green beans

Cheese and fruit plate
Panna cotta with fresh berries and warm chocolate sauce

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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

CanapĂ© 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

Party appetizers for 20 in Belmont

Shrimp cocktail with basil-mango sauce
Sun dried tomato and goat cheese tarts
Mushroom empanadas
Summer fruits salad with arugula and almonds
Cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls, marinated eggplant, garlic lemon mushrooms on skewers