Leftovers ~ What’s to Love?

[Photo by Jose Diaz]

Honestly, I’d love to say, “Leftovers, YUM!”

Alas, I can’t. I’m a finickie foodie… after all.

Here’s the deal, just give me a small portion and I’m a happy camper.

If I don’t finish a meal in a restaurant, I’ve decided – right-here-and-now – I don’t want to take it home in styrofoam, or any other container, even if it’s “green” friendly.

Nothing, a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y nothing, tastes as good as it does when it’s just been prepared.

To prove that point, it took my husband about 20 years to figure out I’m a pretty good cook with just my normal stir frying. That’s because when we were raising the girls, he’s come home from work at night about 8:00 p.m. By then, his food had slipped from just prepared to “leftovers,” simply by waiting for him for three hours. I fed the girls early and they were already off to bed, with school the next day.

Now that we both work out of the house, he’s getting to taste my cooking right after I prepared it; however, these days that’s slim, because I cooked myself into a corner as a stay at home mom, and I can’t now work a 12 hour day then get jazzed to stand behind a stove… Priorities have been reset.

When I do cook, though, he’s got his knife and fork at the ready… I also try to portion it out so there’s nothing left over… What’s to love in left overs?

Gluten Free Dining at PF Changs ~ Who Knew?

Having just dined at the Corte Madera PF Changs, on a very busy Saturday evening, we had a wonderful experience. I decided to Email the restaurant’s management, because – as we all know – feedback is generally when someone’s all irritated about something that didn’t meet his or her expectations.

So, on 2008-05-20 I wrote the following:
“I just gave you publicity on a food blog that I recently launched. I’m in the wine business, and have a wine blog (www.wine-blog.org). My wine blog gets over 20,000 hits a month. I miss not being able to also talk about food (because the other is so focused on wine as a wine publicist), so I’ve just launched www.finickiefoodie.com. I know Mark Miller, the design consultant/restaurateur who has played a major role in developing the PF Changs chain. I just blogged about our excellent service – given the challenges that my family/party always presents… having so many allergies and food aversions. Your staff was excellent, and deserves the spot light. Enjoy! www.finickiefoodie.com

For me, it’s an amazing thing to actually have someone actually get back to me. I write tons of things, give people publicity wherever I go. Many of my comments seem to go into a black hole. When they don’t, I know I’ve found a keeper! I just received the following thoughtful response from one of the Corte Madera partners, Nicole Thornberg.

Dear Jo, Thank you so much for the positive comments that you have posted for us on both you web site and your blog. I have not had an opportunity to read much of your blog but I did enjoy what you had to say on you web site finnickiefoodie.com. It was also refreshing to see the main image from our new website posted as well, it is a new look for us and the exposure is a wonderful help. I am also glad to hear that our gluten free menu was able to help you with your family`s allergies and dietary restrictions. I’ve tried the Sweet and Sour Chicken without batter as well and it is delicious but I have some other great recommendations for those with celiac disease that you might be interested in. Our Singapore Street noodles for instance are my absolute favorite off of our Gluten free menu and are great for kids as well. As I`m sure you know, we have some other wonderful selections so explore and enjoy. Thank you again for your time and your wonderful compliments, and if there is ever anything you need don`t hesitate to contact either myself or my partner in the Corte Madera store, David Bromberger.

Sincerely,

Nicole Thornburg
Market Partner

Now, there’s a great response about the restaurant having a gluten free menu. We didn’t know that at the time of our visit, or we wouldn’t have thought twice… My daughter would have asked for the gluten free version, and I would have also been thrilled to read it. I know, having raised my children on stir-frying their dinners meals, I would have found some of my really favorite foods there… Just based on Nicole’s recommendations.

Thanks, Nicole… Now we all know!

PF Changs China Bistro ~ Culinary Cuisine Dreamed up by a Master ~ Mark Miller

Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe… What’s not to love about that one?

Started by the very talented Mark Miller, the restaurant’s just changed hands. Still, it’s said that Mark Will be around to continue to guide it.

When I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico in September of 2006, Mark and I (with Dave Pramuk of Robert Biale Vineyards) met in his restaurant. He completely caught us up on all his doings, which would leave anyone sane breathless. He was not only cooking here and there, but he’s managing the openings of the PF Chang restaurants everywhere, as well as other similar chains.

In the PF Changs China Bistro restaurants, I feel his spirit of the Wild West meeting his travels to the Far East.

First experiencing PF Changs with Greg Lint of Oak Knoll Winery while in Oregon, I came to understand how delicious this chain is, after listening to Mark’s waxing poetic when he told Dave and I about his projects.

So, lots of gossip… all historically related to how I finally got to the fairly newly opened PF Changs in Corte Madera, California.

The menu has lots to choose from, all healthy and fresh. When my Celiac daughter got her Sweet & Sour Chicken delivered, and it was breaded, she asked for the same without flour batter/deep fat fried chicken. It was immediately taken away, and returned about 20 minutes later, just as I had prepared it for her when she was growing up. She actually asked if it was batter fried when she ordered it, and told that it wasn’t. So, she had to press forward in order to be able to eat her meal.

Meanwhile, the chefs unquestioningly delivered what she was expecting, and her meal was fabulous. It’s this kind of service that’s so important in any restaurant dining experience for anyone Finickie… and there are lots of us in the world.

If you love Asian cuisine, this is on the “A” list for any Finickie Foodie. Imagine lettuce wraps for vegetarians and/or carnivores… Mark Miller thought of everything.

Some people eat to live, and I’m one of them

Finicky Foodies… There are a lot more of us than you might think.

In my own family,

  • I’ve got one daughter that tip toes around fish… She just wasn’t offered it as a child, and isn’t that used to it. She admits she’ll try it when offered, and might even like it, but wasn’t raised with it, because I hate fish… period. She hasn’t been tested for food allergies, but I have. With her likes and dislikes being very close to mine, I’m betting her DNA is probably close to not being able to eat lots of it, otherwise she’d be drawn to it, like my second daughter, who lives for sushi. My dad was ( and my brother is) allergic to fish, but somehow that didn’t stop Dad or my brother from eating it… except when their gout was/is an issue.
  • Another daughter is allergic to many grains, including wheat, barley, rye… Celiac.
  • My third daughter is a vegetarian. She’s allergic to the idea of taking down an animal in order to live.
  • A son-in-law has religious beliefs that doesn’t allow for pork in his diet.
  • A second son-in-law also has religious beliefs that doesn’t allow for pork, but he’s willing to give it a try… depending on what it is.
  • Holiday meals that I prepare are pretty interesting, to say the least. (I’ll tell you about how I stuff a turkey, when we get closer to Turkey Time.)

    So… What drives a Finicky Foodie?

    I don’t wake up in the morning with thoughts about how I’ll craft my day around the “Bounty of the County,” as is often said here in Sonoma County.

    I wake up thinking about what I need to write. I might get a bite in somewhere in the process, but most likely it will be about 10:00 a.m., and the hunger pangs hit me. I slice off a piece of a banana, and keep typing away on my computer.

    This is typical for me. By 4:00 p.m., I might begin to take food seriously, having shoved something down at lunchtime.

    I don’t live to eat, because food’s not what seems to drive me on.

    I have food allergies, food aversions, and what I do eat I’m very particular about.

    What goes into my body needs to be a primary food with very little intervention. In other words, no fast food for me… It’s not pure enough.

    A long time ago, I bought into, “You are what you eat,” so why would I eat “Junk?”

    If this makes me finicky, I wear the badge proudly.

    I’m not one of those who can’t stand it when one food on my plate touches another. I’m not OCD. I’ve just got a sensitive digestive system, and I know there’s a lot of people out there just like me.

    Chinois Asian Bistro ~ What Drives People to Steal Their Wine Lists?

    Nothing’s more exciting than to have a new kid on the block, when that kid’s brought in all kinds of new, fascinating toys…

    Enter Chinois Asian Bistro in Windsor, California, offering Pan-Asian cuisine… Right in the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country, just minutes from downtown Healdsburg.

    Their menu is so delectable that I feel like the culinary gods just blessed my life with the gift I’ve been long waiting for. Their food menu steps right out of what I used to prepare for my kids when I was a stay-at-home mom. I did all things from scratch, including breads, jams, canning tomatoes, baking beans on my Jotel woodstove while the kids shot down the hill on sleds to the icecovered pond… I made sure my girls never had “fast food” slow their fast tracks to healthy happiness.

    Pictured to the left is one of my favorite dishes: Mandarin Orange Glazed Chicken Drumsticks ~ Crunchy chicken drumsticks tossed in sweet honey, chili, and tangy orange sauce.

    Quoting from Jeff Cox’s entry on the Santa Rosa Press Democrat blog regarding Chinois: “On the opening menu are several types of dim sum (finally come to SoCo), small plates of everything from panko prawns with wasabi-honey, chicken satay and Singaporean Roti Prata (a sort of flat bread with curry dip) to sautéed mung beans, garlic egg noodles and what you’ve come here for–seafood Nonya Laksa.”

    There’s a person inside of me that wants to keep this a best kept secret. This way I can continue to enjoy not having an overcrowded restaurant, and we can go on having such a personal one-on-one dining experience with the new owners.

    The other person inside of me, however, wants to give them all kinds of free marketing advice, so they do succeed. This way they easily make ends meet, and they don’t simply go off into the sunset.

    Last night at dinner, I asked proprietor Debbie Shu if I could have a paper copy of her wine list. It’s such an amazing international list that I wanted to share a sampling of its contents with you. Why? Because they’ve dared to do in this area what no other restaurant has done… Step outside of the nativism trap that all other restaurants around here have fallen into. [The image of Debbie is one that’s on the Santa Rosa Press Democrat food blog site.]

    While, on one hand, it’s good business to feature all of your neighbors’ wines, it’s still good business to offer those neighbors who are more adventurous new international flavors. It allows me to explore new flavors that I might otherwise have missed in life… It simply broadens my perspective.

    So, last night, when I asked for their wine list so I could share with you, I was told that their lists have been stolen almost down to not having any. Can you imagine? Their list is so great that people have been stealing them in order to study it further. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I guess not being in the restaurant business these sorts of things escape me.

    What I can share with you is this… If you’re headed to Sonoma County and you’re looking for exotic Asian cuisine, Chinois Asian Bistro is absolutely delicious, with a wine list that has no parallel in close proximity, and is certain to totally delight your palate.

    I’m the world’s most Finickie Foodie. I make Sally, in “When Harry Met Sally,” look like she’s easy to please. I have food allergies, food aversions, and a hard time finding just one favorite item on any restaurant’s menu. Chinois offers so many foods that I find absolutely delightful that I now have choices (a first time for me).

    My daughter Melanie is wheat intolerant… There are so many items that it’s not an issue for her, either.

    My daughter Lyla is a vegetarian… There’s so many items that she’s never at a loss for what to have.

    My husband Jose is quick to add that he eats anything… His body and palate are so tolerant that he enjoys everything – I mean everything – on Chinois’ menu.

    So, I’m taking the high road on this one, and sharing this new Sonoma County culinary delight with you, because even though we might have to eventually wait to be seated, at least I’ll be able to continue to enjoy this fabulous food and wine experience.

    Chinois Asian Bistro, 186 Windsor River Road, Windsor, 707.838.4667