Thursday, January 27, 2011

MacWorld 2011 is now in San Francisco

Today was the first day exhibits at Macworld 2011 in San Francisco.

Of course I was there...this year with Joanne and Linelle.

The crowds gathered outside the exhibit hall in Moscone West waiting for the 10 a.m. opening.

Some did a bit of shopping at the MacWorld boutique.

The show is quite small this year and what we saw most of was cases and other accessories for the iPhone and iPad.

The only really big company exhibiting was HP with some interesting wide format printers and some intriguing digital cameras. I'm going to further investigate the model with the touch screen.

There also were a lot of companies selling photo software and apps. Linelle purchased a suite of programs that simplify the tedious editing steps that Photoshop can do.

And there were some amusing products such as a truck that runs around a Vinyl record and plays its music! At almost $100, it was too expensive for Linelle to buy for her dad, a vinyl collector.

We were amused by works of art created with the backs of iPhones and iPads.

Software for the iPad to record you while you are sleeping, presumably to determine if you snore or not and to signal you or your partner to tell you to stop also intrigued us.

My favorite iPad case was by Lostdog from BlueTrek. When I get an iPad, it will be on my list for accessory purchases.

A highlight of the show for me was the iPhone Life Magazine booth. Last year, I took home a complimentary copy of the magazine and became a subscriber. They were at the show again this year and I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with one of my favorites of the magazine's writers, Todd Bernhard. If you haven't read iPhone Life, be sure to pick up a copy at the show.

All told, we spent a bit over three hours and did the entire show. I wouldn't have missed it, but there were few new discoveries. The show is smaller than it was last year. I still miss the days when Apple participated in MacWorld and when I could spend several days there and still not attend all the presentations that interested me.

For lunch, we left the exhibit hall and walked a few blocks to 'Wichcraft for some delicious made-to-order sandwiches.

'Wichcraft has other locations in New York City and Las Vegas. It was started by celebrity chef and head judge on Top Chef, Tom Colicchio. They also serve salads and soup; a good choice and a good value for an informal, high quality breakfast or lunch when attending an event at Moscone Center or when shopping in the San Francisco Centre.

Monday, January 24, 2011


NO, my daffodils are not in bloom yet, although some Narcissus and Iceland Poppies are, but I couldn't resist showing off this beautiful bouquet of daffodils that a friend brought to our house the other day...he also brought lunch!! Now this is the kind of friend we all should have.

At any rate, on this day when temperatures were well below zero in Boston, where much of my family lives, I can't resist sharing these cheerful daffodils with you.

My local Trader Joe's and Whole Foods stores have been selling bunches of daffodils for the past few weeks. Buy them all closed up to maximize their time in your home. It took my bouquet three days to look like this, with a few opening each day.

Spring is just two months away!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


January is a traditionally slow month for restaurants.

For many many years (as long as I can remember and I've been a customer since they opened in 1997), the Walnut Creek Yacht Club has offered a lobster dinner for the price of the year. So, this January, a 1 1/4 lb. Lobster, with Regatta Fries (garlic fries), Cole Slaw, and Drawn Butter (no substitutions) is priced at $20.11! Your only choice is whether you want your lobster boiled or broiled.

Drinks, appetizers, other side dishes, and desserts are extra.

Every year we go and this year was no exception.

And, every year, we all have lobster and a lot of fun.

The four of us shared Fried Calamari to start (no photo) and the Commodore's Sundae for dessert.

Sharing the huge sundae for dessert was a good plan; it consists of Chocolate Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, Caramel Sauce, Whipped Cream, Toasted Almonds, and two Cherries. Yum!

You are not required to have lobster, even in January, at the Yacht Club. In fact, if you want lobster any time of year, including January, you must request it at least a day before your meal there. All the fish at the Walnut Creek Yacht Club is fresh and the selection varies daily. It's my favorite seafood restaurant in Contra Costa County.

If you do want to take advantage of the January lobster special, you have until January 31. Reservations are a must!

Note: the Yacht Club is closed on Sunday.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Today was the first day of the Winter Fancy Food Show. It is in San Francisco at Moscone Center for two more days, through Tuesday, January 18, 2011.

Harriet & I go just about every year. I go to get feeling for food trends for the coming year.

It's a great show, filling both the North and South Halls of Moscone. At just about every booth there is food to taste. Harriet and I just walk every aisle tasting and chatting at any booth that catches our fancy.

Many booths give samples of the foods they are featuring but attendees are not supposed to remove food from the exhibit halls. It seems that small packaged samples are not a problem and these are what I came home with.

While the booths are beautiful and filled with an abundance of food and food accessories, I noticed fewer packaged samples to take away, with some booths telling visitors that they could only take one piece of candy or a single tea bag. Not a problem for me but different from the past for sure.

We always start at the cheese section. At 10 a.m., I can't handle sweets, of which there are always many, but cheese, gives me energy and there are always unique cheeses to taste.

Sections of the exhibition halls are dedicated to foods from different states and countries.

A few of the booths that I thought photo-worthy include Soy Vay's

And Jelly Belly"s, who this year featured works of art made from Jelly Bellies. This is a Jelly Belly rendition of "Starry Night."

One exception on the lack of giveaways was Republic of Tea who was introducing a line of 14 loose teas. They gave a travel tea press to anyone who was willing to stand in line for one.

And in it, was your choice of tea which was freshly brewed. Of course, I waited in the line which moved pretty quickly and I know I will enjoy using it in my car where I often enjoy a cup of hot tea that I carry from home.

So what intrigued me at the show? These are just some of my observations:

• Horseradish and Wasabi are turning up in dips and salad dressings.

• There are more snack foods and they are getting healthier: nuts, whole grain munchies, and lots of savory popped snacks: popcorn, popped potatoes, and more popped foods. Many snack foods are in small, serving-sized packages. I even discovered squeezable Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter in 1.15 oz. Squeeze Packages.

• Greek yogurt from many traditional yogurt companies.

• Sea Salt remains an accent ingredient in unexpected foods such as caramels and chocolate. Even such traditional candy makers such as Ghirardelli now have a Sea Salt Chocolate Bar called "Intense Dark Sea Salt SoirĂ©e."

• Flavored teas. For hot beverages, tea booths significantly outnumbered coffee booths. One of the most "amusing" teas I sampled was Trump Tea, a line of premium teas from none other than Donald Trump...some of the blends include "Union Square," "Park Avenue," "Westchester," and "Mar-A-Largo." What more can I say?

• Crackers...Just about all the Cheese booths are using 34° wafer crackers as a platform for their cheese samples. I discovered these crackers at Whole Foods last month and continue to enjoy them. They obviously are a hit. 34° has its own booth too. There was lots of lavash too, including flavored lavash.

• Fish Spreads. There were several made with Smoked Salmon, but the one I liked the best Was Ruby Bay Smoked Mahi-Mahi Spread from Acme Smoked Fish Corporation.

• Granola! Who'd have thought after all these years of eating granola that it would be turning into a "new" trendy food? Well, certainly the people exhibiting at the show! I must have passed by at least a dozen booths touting one or another form of "healthful" granola...not that there's anything wrong with it...

Monday, January 10, 2011


I started off 2011 with a 4-day visit to the Phoenix area.

This is the first time I've been there in Winter and, to my surprise, it is cold in Phoenix in early January, especially when it is dark. Temperatures were in the low 40s overnight and no warmer than the low 60s at the warmest part of the day. I spent my entire visit in jeans, wearing a jacket.

But, it was nice to be away and to visit with friends. It seems that each year, more of my friends move to or vacation in the Phoenix area.

Friends from Connecticut, Silky and David, are spending the month of January in Scottsdale. I stayed with them.

Right from the airport, Silky and I headed to Last Chance for a day of shopping. I know I've blogged about Last Chance before, but, in case you've missed it, it is at Last Chance where all Nordstrom returns and overstock items eventually turn up. Silky and I made two visits to Last Chance in our four days together. Just to give a timeline as to how long it takes for items to wind up at Last Chance, I found several things that were in my Nordstrom late last July. The deal at Last Chance is that there are no returns and one must inspect items closely for flaws, defects, or damage. Sometimes an item is faded, sometimes a button is missing, sometimes there is a rip; in the case of shoes, they often have been worn and returned and can show signs of wear. That said, a lot of merchandise is in perfect condition but simply out of season by the time it is returned and it just winds up here. I spent about $40 and came home with two backpacks, several tops, a purse, some jewelry, and socks!

The doors open at Last Chance at 10 a.m. Both days, we spent about three hours shopping and came out with bags laden with goodies. On our second visit, another friend, Arlene, came with us. Arlene is new to the Phoenix area. This was her first Last Chance encounter. Here are Arlene and Silky waiting for the doors to open

...the area in front of the doors is filled with merchandise to keep people occupied while they wait for 10 a.m. (great bargains here too, of course).

We spent a day with former Californians, Marcia and Charlie in and around Gold Canyon, which is south east of Phoenix.

Some of us played golf

while the others ventured off to the Queen Creek Olive Mill

for a tour ($5 per person) and lunch.

Queen Creek Olive Mill is Arizona's only working olive farm and mill. The olives are grown in groves close to the mill. At the mill, they hand craft their extra virgin olive oil from the olives they grow. Our tour guides described olive cultivation in Arizona. The detail that interested me most is that insects and mold are not a problem here because of the intense heat; therefore, the olives are grown without the use of any pesticides.

The Olive Mill has a large marketplace that features the Queen Creek Olive Oils (can be shipped), locally made baked goods that are made with olive oil, and many packaged olive specialty foods.

For lunch in the Mill's Tuscan-inspired eatery, the three of us shared a Vegetable Antipasto Plate which was accompanied by Grilled Olive Oil Bread. Silky and Marcia ended their lunch with scoops of gelato.

On my last afternoon, we stopped at The Phoenician Hotel to visit their Cactus Garden. The Garden is open to the public and there is no cost to visit. Just tell the guard at the gate that you are going to the Cactus Garden and he will give you a visitor's pass for your car. You can park with the valet at the hotel entrance or self-park in their garage.

The Cactus Garden covers two acres and features 250 varieties of cactus and succulents. It is at the base of Camelback Mountain.

Each time I visit the Phoenix area, there are new restaurants to try and old favorites to revisit. The restaurant scene is lively and overall, I am rarely disappointed. This visit, I loved every restaurant meal I had.

Our first dinner was at Renegade Canteen, which was voted one of the best new restaurants for 2010.

We were delighted with our meal and the attentive service. Renegade describes its food as "Western American Cuisine" but I feel it much more than that. The dishes are creative, innovative, and are made with the freshest of seasonal ingredients. Renegade prides itself in its selection of wine. Many wines are from lesser known California wine regions; our server shared his expert wine knowledge with us in helping us make our selections.

To start, we had a Caesar Salad which was garnished with Dry Jack Cheese and Jalapeno Cheddar Croutons and a Spinach Salad dressed with a housemade Bacon and Honey dressing, Candied Pecans, and topped with a Coddled Egg.

David ordered the Daily Special of Rack of Lamb. It was 6 good-sized chops on a bed of Creamed Spinach.

Silky went vegetarian with the Tagliatelle with Mushroom Meatballs, prepared with Truffle Butter, San Marzano Tomatoes, and Parmigiana Cheese. Her dish looked spectacular and was delicious. I've never seen nor tasted meatballs made of mushrooms and I'm looking forward to a return visit to enjoy a whole serving for myself.

My dinner choice was the Blackened Catfish which was accented with a Cajun-inspired mix of Crab, Shrimp, and Crawfish. It was accompanied by 'Nawlins Rice."

For dessert, the three of us shared the Meyer Lemon Cake which was artistically perched on thinly sliced apples and garnished with fruit sorbet and a cookie. Delicious!

Prices are very moderate at Renegade Canteen. Our meals with a glass of wine each were about $35 per person before tip. Most Main Dishes are priced between $15 and $20; Steaks are in the $35 to $45 range, depending on cut, but, unlike many pricey popular steakhouses that serve a "naked" steak on your plate, Renegade's Steaks are served with your choice of sauce and a vegetable side dish. Renegade is a big restaurant with several dining rooms. The dining rooms are beautifully furnished and small enough to not be noisy.

Another night we tried Blanco, the Fox Concepts Group's relatively new Mexican Restaurant.

While we loved the American/Mexican Food, we found the noise level to be too high; we could not hear one another across the table.

We had Fish Tacos, Beef Tacos,

and a Guacamole Cheese Crisp.

The Cheese Crisp is a Pizza-like creation made with a mix of three cheeses melted on a crisp flour tortilla and topped with the diner's choice of such toppings as Guacamole, Chicken and Poblanos, Shrimp and Corn, or Short Rib and Avocado. Silky ordered the Guacamole Cheese Crisp for her dinner. David started his meal with the spicy Guacamole.

We drank beer with our meal. I'm told by friends that their Margaritas are not to be missed (the Blood Orange Margarita sounds tempting to me!)

So, good food, very reasonable prices, but too much noise at Blanco.

Another evening, we dined at Chompie's, a New York style deli and bakery. It's a favorite of Silky and David and has now been added to my list of must-visits when in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Even getting there early in the evening, there was a line waiting for tables (no reservations). Chompie's has four locations in the Phoenix area and serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner daily. All their breads, bagels and pastries are baked in house.

Silky and David both had Pastrami Sandwiches.

I had a Tuna Melt.

The sandwiches are huge and are served with your choice of French Fries, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, or Fresh Fruit. There are all-you-can eat dill pickles on the table. Yum to Chompie's!

We took a lunch break on one of our shopping days at Chelsea's Kitchen. Arlene and I both ordered the Brussels Sprouts Salad and loved our meals.

Silky thought her Casbah Salad (Seasoned grilled chicken, dates, and chickpeas on chopped lettuce) was ordinary.

We all liked the free freshly-baked cookies that we were offered on our way out. Arlene eats at Chelsea's Kitchen regularly and her teenage daughter and her friends also dine here. I liked the atmosphere and the food. Silky most likely won't return.

Before I headed to the airport, we stopped for a Pizza lunch at Humble Pie.

David and I had the lunch special: Our choice of an individual pizza with soup or salad. Silky ordered Bruschetta and shared pieces of our pizzas.

I was introduced to Humble Pie by other Phoenix area friends; it's my favorite of pizza in this area...creative combination pizzas and interesting tasty salads and other dishes. I like it's lively atmosphere too.

David had the Roasted Mushroom Pizza and the Strawberry & Gorgonzola Salad.

I had the Artichoke Pizza with a Chopped Salad.

Humble Pie is deservedly a popular spot.