Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wonderful Asian Restaurant "Find" in Oakland

Last Spring, when Jim and I were on Local Food Adventures food walking tour of the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, our tour guide pointed out Osmanthus, an Asian Fusion restaurant. Our guide told us that the owner of Local Food Adventures had recently treated her guides to an exceptional dinner here. I made note to try it soon.

Today, I had lunch at Osmanthus with my longtime friend and amazing blogger (No More Commas Period), Mary Ann.

The food was truly wonderful...fresh, creative, tasty, and reasonably priced.  My only regret is that more people weren't with us so we could have tried more dishes.

But, we did our best with our three dishes, all in servings so generous that we both had leftovers to take home.  We will be back, for sure.

We started with the Green Tea Leaf salad from the Cool Dishes section of the menu.  Burmese Tea Leaf salads have become popular in many Asian restaurants.  Osmanthus's is one of the tastiest ones I've had.   This salad is a tribute to the Burmese restaurant that occupied this location previously.  It's a mix of fermented green tea leaves, Little Gem lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and several different kinds of nuts.  The salad is presented deconstructed, so diners can see each of the ingredients.  Our server tossed the salad at our table.

Our choice from the Warm Dishes section of the menu was the Dry-fried Chicken Wings with Sichuan Peppercorns.  The Chicken Wings were very meaty and covered with a crispy un-greasy batter.

From the Noodles and Rice section of the menu we had the Dan Dan Noodles with Ground Pork and Peanuts.  This is another dish that is presented with each of the ingredients assembled but not mixed together.  Again, our server did the tossing. My photo doesn't show the noodles underneath; they are long thick round ones.

There are so many tempting items on Osmanthus's one-page menu that I will have to return frequently.  Some that I debated over today include the Salmon Curry with Purple Yams, the Brussels Sprouts with Salt Pork and Honey-Sriracha Sauce, the Smoked Trout Fried Rice, the Prawns with Coconut Milk and Mint Leaves, and the Garlic Noodles.

For beverage choices, Osmanthus serves Cocktails, Wine, Beer, and an eclectic selection of nearly a dozen teas.

Note: The Osmanthus web site doesn't seem to open, but reservations can be made online on Open Table
Here's their direct contact information:

6048 College Ave., Oakland, CA
Open for lunch and dinner every day except Monday
Reservations are advised

Osmanthus is three blocks from the Rockridge BART station; street parking is available on and off College Avenue.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Afternoon Tea

This week Harriet and I celebrated her birthday with Afternoon Tea at the Crown and Crumpet in San Francisco. 

While Crown and Crumpet is in Japantown, an unlikely location for an British Tea Salon, it is a bright, cheery, "proper" tea salon and serves one of the best Afternoon Teas that I've had in San Francisco.  Crown and Crumpet was originally in Ghiradelli Square from 2008; it relocated to this current spot in The New People Building in 2013.

We had the Afternoon Tea, a complete tea service that included, for each of us, our own large pot of our selection of tea from the extensive loose tea menu; warm blueberry scones and crumpets with jam, lemon curd, and clotted cream; egg salad, ham salad, and cucumber finger sandwiches; two warm savory items: sausage rolls and herbed biscuits; green salad; and five different sweets: chocolate-covered strawberries, palmers, cookies, mini cupcakes, and matcha macarons.

When we had finished our wonderful Tea, our server surprised Harriet with a special large cupcake with a birthday candle in it.  While we sang "Happy Birthday", she added to the festivities by blowing bubbles in Harriet's direction!

What a joyous get together!

In addition to their complete Afternoon Tea service, Crown and Crumpet offers several à la carte items which include Chicken Pot Pie, Avocado Toast, Beans on Toast, Soup, Salads, and Hot Pressed Sandwiches. They always will serve just a pot of tea or cup of coffee, with or without pastries or tea sandwiches.

A nice alternative to the complete Tea that we enjoyed, a smaller version, the Nursery Tea is offered to children 12 or under and adults 65 and older: a small pot of tea, mini finger sandwiches, a scone with jam, and three sweets.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


On October 3, 2017, I swam the Swim A Mile for Women with Cancer, a benefit for the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, California (WCRC).

This was my 20th year to do the swim.

For my team of four, "Janet's Angels" (Harriet, Allison, Amy, and me in the photo above), this was a bittersweet swim.  

We all were swimming in memory of our dear friend, and Harriet's daughter, Janet, who passed away at the end of May after 10 years with metastatic breast cancer.

Janet has swum with us for the past several years and we miss her.

Thanks to our generous sponsors, our team has raised close to $9,000 for WCRC, and, I personally have raised nearly $5,000.  Those who sponsored us are friends of Janet and also have their own friends and family who have been touched by cancer.  

For my sponsors I swam in memory/honor of close to 100 people who have been touched by cancer. 

These are some photos from the Swim A Mile.  At the end of this post, I've included a tribute to Janet, with photos of Janet and some links to videos that include her.

Team "Janet's Angels" with "Janet " written on our backs  

Harriet and Amy getting ready to swim

My list of those I and my sponsors remember and honor

The Swim a Mile Memory/Honor board

Harriet finishes her swim

Just as happy after the swim

Allison enjoys an after-Swim massage.  WCRC takes very good care of Swim A Mile participants

As always, there is plenty of delicious food to enjoy before and after the Swim

 Amy receives her medal

Harriet has been swimming with me for 10 years.

I celebrate with Christine Sinnott, WCRC's wonderful Swim A Mile Coordinator

The Swim goes on for two full days in the beautiful Mills College pool.  About 500 people swam this year.



Janet's first Swim a Mile with me and Harriet 2013

Janet's 40th Birthday Party, 2014

Janet's Creative Way to Deal with Hair Loss from Chemotherapy

Janet at Swim A Mile 2016

Our 2016 swim team of Pam, me, Janet, and Amy

Enjoying food samples at the Winter Fancy Food Show, January, 2017. Food and wine were among Janet's passions.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Best Restaurant Meal EVER!

Jim and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary with a dinner at The French Laundry, renowned chef Thomas Keller's restaurant in Yountville, California.

It's not the first time we've had dinner at the French Laundry.  In fact, we have been patrons of this special restaurant since sometime in the 1980's, long before Thomas Keller took over in 1994.

When we first discovered the French Laundry, Sally and Don Schmidt were the owners. Each day, they served a fixed price multi-course meal that featured fresh, seasonal ingredients.  In those days, your dinner reservation pretty much gave you a table for the evening at this small two-story restaurant in a stone cottage. Between courses, we were encouraged to walk around the grounds, wander through their gardens, and chat with the staff, many of whom were Schmidt family members.  When we ate here, we felt like family and, even after the Schmidts sold the restaurant, we remained in touch with them and regularly saw them at their Apple Farm in Philo, California. We still stop there to buy apples when we are driving to and from Mendocino and I took several cooking classes from Sally and her daughter Karen Bates.

When Thomas Keller took the helm at the French Laundry, we were among the first to dine there. Initially, we felt that the dining room had become pretentious and that we were rushed through our very expensive dinner so that another group could be seated at our table.  But, because, Keller's cuisine was creative and unique, we did go back for a few more times.

It has been about 20 years since the last time that we dined at The French Laundry. Since we vacation in Yountville for a week every year, we've watched the restaurant and its kitchen going through several remodels. It was time for a return visit....

Until this year, getting a reservation at the French Laundry was a challenge in and of itself.  But, this spring, they came up with an online reservation system that has a link from their website.  On the first day of each month, at 10 a.m. California time, reservations for three months ahead are made available.  Thinking dinner here would be a treat for this year's anniversary, I took on the reservation challenge and got online on May 1, promptly at 10 a.m., to reserve for August.  And, I got a reservation for the day of my choice!  To discourage no-shows at this ever-popular restaurant, it is necessary to prepay at the time of reserving ($310 per person for the basic nine-course meal).

And so, on a balmy August 2017 evening, we arrived for dinner at The French Laundry, and what I consider the best restaurant meal I've ever experienced.

From the time we arrived, we were made to feel welcome, comfortable, and very special. The service was impeccable and never felt pretentious.  As each course was served, our servers described the dish in detail and told us the origin of the main ingredients.  No ingredient is used more than once throughout the entire meal.

We never felt rushed.  We were encouraged to wander out on the balcony or on the grounds between courses. Our dinner lasted about three hours and was perfectly paced.

When I got a call a few days ahead to confirm my reservation, I was asked if we were celebrating anything special.  I told them it was our anniversary dinner.  Our menus were personalized for our occasion. And, once we were seated, they brought us each a glass of sparkling wine.

Interestingly, some of Chef Keller's signature dishes are still being served.

Before our first course, there was an Amuse Bouche (single-bite hors d'oeuvres) of two signature dishes,

Salmon Tartare Cornet

 and, Gougeres.

Here's the rest of our dinner, course by course:

First Course: "Oysters and Pearls," a "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar. This dish is another of Chef Keller's signature dishes. 

Second Course: Chilled Garden Carrot Soup

A warm Epi roll accompanied our earlier courses

Third Course: Slow Cooked Fillet of Gulf Coast Cobia

Fourth Course: Big Island Abalone "A La Plancha"

Fifth Course: "Bread and Butter," an Applewood Smoked Bacon and Onion Brioche served with Diane St. Clair's Animal Farm Butter.
(The bowl in which the Brioche is served is worthy of it's own photo, I think)

Sixth Course: Wolfe Ranch White Quail "Roti a la Broche"

Seventh Course : Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb

Eighth Course : The Cheese Course: "Cheesecake" (for our dinner, "Etude" cheese from Andante Dairy in Petaluma, California, was used)

Final Course: Assortment of Desserts, an overwhelming selection of Fruit, Ice Cream and Candies

The first photo that follows is a closeup of "Coffee" part of another of Chef Keller's Signature dessert dishes: "Coffee and Donuts."  The Coffee is a Cappuccino Semifreddo and the Donuts are Cinnamon-Sugar Donut holes.  All the other elements of the dessert course were new to me.

Here are detailed photos of the other desserts:

And, there was more.....

Right before the very grand dessert, we were each presented with a housemade white chocolate kiss (a la Hershey's style), wrapped in gold foil and with a paper tag that says "Happy Anniversary."

We got to tour the kitchen.

And, to take home, we were presented with a folder with copies of our menus, a booklet about many of the purveyors who provide the French Laundry with the ingredients used its meals, a tiny tin containing four shortbread cookies, and a miniature chest of chocolate truffles, one of each flavor.

The French Laundry serves dinner each day and lunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  For some of the courses on the daily nine-course tasting menu, there are other choices for which there is a supplementary charge.  An optional nine-course vegetable tasting menu is also offered for the same basic cost.  Wine and spirits are offered from a very extensive list, priced accordingly.  Guests are welcome to bring bottles of wine that are not represented on the restaurant's wine list for a fee of $150 per 750ml bottle.

Will I return soon to The French Laundry?  Most certainly.  It is a restaurant for a special occasion and I can't wait for my next celebration there.