Menu today

 Creamy curried cauliflower soup
Fennel and orange salad with toasted walnuts
Cod baked with tomatoes and sweet onions
Rabbit stew with wild mushrooms Honey mustard pork tenderloin Parmesan meatballs, onion gravy
Baked sweet potatoes with chai spices
Polenta with wild mushrooms
Brussels sprouts with pomegranate and feta
 Honey roasted winter squashes

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Menu today

Vegetable soup with meatballs
 Sautéed halibut, salsa verde
  Spaghetti squash
 Duck legs roasted with pears and sweet onions
  Potatoes gratin
 Pork roast with herb mustard crust
  Braised cabbage

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Here is the interview that Chef Garbo did with me for the Personal Chef magazine:
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USPCA Bay Area September Meeting

It’s hard to believe how much one can eat and drink in a professional conference! I feel like I won’t get hungry for days.

The September meeting of our USPCA Bay Area Chapter is traditionally held in Chef Garbo‘s beautiful summer cabin in Inverness. We get together on Saturday afternoon for lunch, then check out some coastal foodie places, shop local markets, then retreat to the cabin, where we all cook together, talk business, share ideas and techniques, eat, drink, play board games, enjoy the garden and the wild bird sanctuary, and generally have fun. Those who are able to stay overnight get together again in the kitchen on Sunday morning to cook brunch. Then we eat again. There is always plenty of tasty leftovers to take home for family and friends. My favorite meeting of the year!

This year we had lunch in the busy Point Reyes Station Cafe, toured Heidrun Meadery and tasted their delicious and unique handmaid mead, did our grocery shopping at the Palace Market, and picked up the last bag of fresh Drakes Bay Oyster Company oysters at Inverness Market. At the cabin, Chef Greg and I fired up the backyard grill, while everyone else got busy in the kitchen.

As always, there was a lot of food styling photography done. I’m proud to say that my pickled quail egg appetizer was very likely the Most Photographed Dish of the Evening!

This year, our former chapter president, Chef Kara, left us for the sunny Southern California, but she came all the way back to Inverness in order to pass the torch to the new president, Chef Gini.

Here is our dinner menu:

Moscow Mules by Claude Garbarino

BBQ Oysters
Pickled Quail Egg and Herb Salad Nests by Polina Antonova
Chicken Wraps by Dawn Buchhollz
Smoked Salmon with Sour Cream Sauce Crostini by Greg Chew

Tossed Salad with Caramelized Walnuts by Gini Bortz
Raw Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Cucumber by Maggie Lawson
Grilled Stuffed Chicken by Greg Chew
Sexy Ribs by Claude Garbarino
Grilled Steak Medallions with Bacon and Herbs by Polina Antonova
Pearl Barley with Rosemary Roasted Grapes by Maggie Lawson
Grilled Veggies by Polina Antonova

Cheese Cake by Dawn Buchhollz
Boozy Pops by Claude Garbarino

Mead, wine, mineral water

Brunch menu:

Coffee, orange juice, mead Mimosas

Breakfast Sausages and Bacon
Lemon Bread & Pecan Muffins by Gini Bortz
Quiche by Dawn Buchhollz
Quail Eggs and Salmon Roe on Toast by Polina Antonova

I came home with lots of new recipes and business ideas, and a bag of garden apples, courtesy of Chef Garbo’s neighbors. Already looking forward to the next meeting!

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Menu this week, no dietary restrictions

Like all personal chefs, I mostly work with clients who follow special diets or have dietary restrictions. Vegetarians and vegans, people with food allergies or intolerances, those who want to lose weight or build muscle, – if they don’t cook for themselves, they have to hire a professional cook who would prepare meals to meet their unique dietary requirements.

I do, however, have a few clients who can eat all kinds of food. The reason they have a personal chef is that they value being able to sit down to a home cooked dinner with their family every night, and they want to introduce the kids to a variety of foods and to develop their palates, but they are too busy to make the dinner themselves most of the time.

Here is a menu I have prepared for a client with no dietary restrictions this week:

Spring minestrone soup

Seafood paella

Dijon chicken
Quinoa with lemon and zucchini

BBQ baby back ribs
Cabbage and carrot slaw

Greek meatballs, cucumber yogurt sauce
Penne with arugula and pine nuts

Penne with arugula and pine nuts

Greek meatballs

Seafood paella

The BBQ baby back ribs were a request from the youngest of the client’s kids; they came out super-delicious and tender; but I didn’t take a picture…

Local fresh ingredients (the clients keep hens in their backyard):

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Colorful spring menu today

From my previous post it may look like my vegetable garden is losing it’s struggle with the local wild life. It is not so. I’m learning to garden in these difficult conditions, and I had some successes. The key is to protect the plants they favor, to plant what the beasts don’t like, or to grow whatever grows faster than they eat it. Most culinary herbs (basil, red sorrel, and dill are the exceptions) don’t seem to interest them. This year, my fava beans are my pride and joy. Fast growing, beautiful plants bear tons of tasty beans, and the only one who is interested is the gopher – and he cannot take them all. Well, he got a couple of plants, but I still have the rest!

Now they are at the peak of their short season, and they go happily into a ragout of fava beans, green beans, and English peas, seasoned with sautéed red onion, garlic, white wine, and good olive oil.

This week I also started cooking with fresh tomatoes again. They are not at their best yet, but after roasting the flavor gets more concentrated, and they make a good roasted tomato soup.

On the menu today:

Roasted tomato soup with pasta

Mushroom, ricotta, and spring onion tartlets
Tangy macaroni salad

Zucchini and carrot “spaghetti” primavera

Duck legs roasted with sweet onions, lemon, and olives
Herbed new potatoes

Lamb chops, chimichurri sauce
Fresh peas and beans ragout

Emerald-green goodness of fava beans and English peas bring the spring to the table.

This isn’t your orthodox spaghetti primavera. The “noodles” are cut out of Nantes carrots and zucchini with a julienne peeler, then steamed briefly and topped with a spring vegetables medley. I first developed this technique for a client who cannot eat any grains – I wanted to make a pasta for her. Then I realized that anyone who wants a vegan dish would probably enjoy it.

Today’s client, a mother of two, gets a little bunch of edible chive flowers for the Mother’s Day on her lamb chops.

Wild mushrooms sautéed with thyme and garlic, and thinly sliced spring onions, top these classic puff pastry ricotta tartlets.

What I bought as packaged “duck legs” in a Chinese grocery store turned out to be whole duck leg quarters! Good. More duck. First, cooked in a skillet, skin side down, to render the fat and to crisp the skin; then, slow-roasted in the oven on top of sweet onion slices, with lemon, rosemary, thyme, and white wine. Garnished with olives.
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Location:Cupertino, CA

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

First fall menu (with calorie count)

Good bye, summer! Welcome, fall!

Today’s menu actually uses summer ingredients, except that my client confessed that she (like almost everyone by now) got oh so tired of zucchinis, so I replaced grilled marinated zucchinis with baked sweet potatoes that she loves.

I enjoy using my client’s new Char-Broil Quantum infrared grill. The Spanish-style mushrooms and peppers recipe from Whole Foods website can be prepared either on a grill or under a broiler. I like the grilled version much better. I have modified the recipe slightly: I char the whole peppers and let them cool in a closed container, grill the mushrooms, then, when the peppers are cool enough to handle, I peel the skins off them, core them, then slice peppers and mushrooms and dress them with sherry vinegar, cayenne, capers, raisins, and Spanish olive oil. Peppers without skins may be not as authentic, but they absorb the seasoning much better.

Menu September, 1

Scallops with spinach and feta – 285 Kcal
Shrimp with wasabi mayonnaise – 335 Kcal

Chicken braised with fennel and apples – 320 Kcal
Grilled steak with Italian salsa verde – 366 Kcal
Beef meatballs – 307 Kcal

Spiced baked sweet potatoes – 172 Kcal
Spanish style portabello mushrooms and peppers – 206 Kcal
Quinoa pilaf with cherries and pecans – 305 Kcal
Roasted spiced carrots – 122 Kcal
Cucumber salad, yogurt dressing – 60 Kcal

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Location:Sunnyvale, CA

Back to school special: kid’s lunches

This September, I am offering to make lunches for your kid to take to school, at no additional charge. With each family meal service, I will prepare and package five lunch boxes for the week. The choices may include:

– Fruit salad

– Whole-grain pasta salad

– Turkey and cheese sandwich

– Cucumber and tomato sandwich

– Grilled vegetables

– Roast chicken

– You tell me whatever your kid likes to eat…

The best way to pack your kid’s lunch is in an insulated lunch bag, with an ice pack to keep it at a safe temperature. I can bring you a cute lunch bag and an ice pack (a small refundable deposit applies). Add a small cartoon of fruit juice or milk, and a bag of dried fruits and nuts to munch on.

Later in the season, as the weather cools down, consider sending the kid to school with an insulated jar of hot soup or stew.

Another summer menu

Chicken and summer vegetables
Fruit salad with creamy yogurt dressing
Salmon with lemon-dill sauce
Honey mustard chicken and vegetables skewers

Beef medallions with bacon and sage

BBQ pulled pork

Wild rice with garlic and herbs
Summer vegetable ragout
Grilled sweet corn
Eggplant parmigiana

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Location:Mill Valley, CA