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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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

USPCA Bay Area meeting

This month, the Bay Area Chapter of United States Personal Chefs Association meeting was hosted by Chef Garbo in her family’s beautiful summer house in Inverness, on the route to Roint Reyes lighthouse, and in the middle of the West Marin and Sonoma coast food paradise. The fine ladies with big knives went sampling oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company (the tiny kumamoto’s were salty and briny, extra-small Pacifics sweet and plump), then moved to Cowgirl Creamery to taste cheeses ( all the old favorites, plus the new Wagonwheel semi-hard cheese that everyone loved), and then had a cookout and games by the fireplace in Garbo house.

Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop

Hog Island Oysters

Your Chef Polina spent most of the night tending the old-fasioned kettle charcoal grill and grilling oysters, chicken, lamb, beef, and vegetables. The bruschetta, braised pork belly appetizers, vegetable risotto, and the berry tart were to die for. The hostess mixed her signature cocktails in a vintage shaker.

Back in the hotel, my boyfriend and I finished the evening with wine, water crackers, and a sampler of Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, in our patio overlooking the marina.

The next morning, R. and I went for what we thought would be a short stroll on the beach, and ended up doing a 4-hour moderate-sternious hike (our trademark extreme romantic walk), and so missed the breakfast at Garbo house. I am looking forward to seeng breakfast photos and reports of other USPCA members.

Thank you dear collegues for a great weekend, and for cute little gifts of spices that you left me!

Update: Here is Chef Garbo’s report on our September retreat, for the January issue of Personal Chef magazine.