Ally
 
Is anyone else watching David Chang (of Momofuku) in "Mind of a Chef?" on Netflix? I just started watching the series this week and am really loving it. In fact, I couldn't stop raving about it at a luncheon I went to today. It's fresh, smart and slightly sarcastic. What's it about? Well according to Anthony Bourdain, who produces and narrates the show, "We’re exploring the creative process, the anatomy of a style of cooking. Not just what inspired this dish, but where did it come from, what are they thinking about, what’s intriguing to them. How did we get here? The end result is often the end of a long story...." Basically it's a wonderful mix of food, travel science and history...something for everyone.


Season 1 won a James Beard Foundation award for Best Television Program, On Location. Season 2 will begin in the fall and will focus on the minds of two chefs- Sean Brock and April Bloomfield.

Website: Mind of a Chef

Here Chang talks about one of my all-time favorite Japanese foods, the humble yakitori:



Ally
Shio Koji

Last week my friend Mayumi came to visit for a few days and brought me a gift for my kitchen- a pouch of shio koji. Shio koji, for those who are unfamiliar, is a rice malt that has been fermented with sea salt. The rice malt (koji) is made from rice that has been inoculated with the spores of a benign mold called Aspergillus oryzae. Shio koji looks like a white porridge-like paste and imparts a sweet, floral aroma. Koji itself has been around for centuries. It's used by sake brewers and makers of soy sauce, mirin and miso. In the past two years, however, it has experienced a huge resurgence and become a popular pantry staple in Japanese kitchens and is now gaining a following in the US. Shio koji has a mild taste that can be best described as a subtle combination of sweet and salty. It works great as a salt substitute and when added to dishes, this versatile seasoning packs a rich umami punch. You can use it to enhance all kinds of foods- you can use it to marinate and tenderize meats (it's supposedly fantastic on roasted chicken), season fish and vegetables, and as a seasoning base for sauces, soups and dressings. Some people even mix shio koji into baked goods or use it to make sausage. Mayumi told me one of her favorite uses for shio koji is marinating firm tofu in it. She presses the excess moisture out of the tofu, then rubs the shio koji on the tofu, wraps it in plastic and then lets it sit, refrigerated, for about 5 days. The tofu takes on a faux cheese like texture (creamy and dense) and tastes great spread on crackers. Shio koji is also great for making "quick" pickles.

Mayumi and I used some to "marinate" our sashimi Thursday night and I did find that the seasoning enhanced the flavors of the tuna noticeably.




Besides being easy to use, shio koji is nutritious and great for the digestive system. It's rich in enzymes and amino acids. Also, the fermentation process increases the amount of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and lactic acid.

You can buy shio koji premade in the refrigerated section of your Japanese grocery store or make your own. To make your own batch, you would need to buy the granulated rice koji (kome koji), add sea salt and water then allow the mixture to ferment for a week. The finished product will keep for a few months, refrigerated. In addition to shio koji, there's also shoyu koji (koji mixed with soy sauce instead of salt) and ama koji (sweet koji).  Shoyu koji is great on fish. We used some shoyu koji tonight on some salmon filets and it was delicious. I just covered 2 filets with a tablespoon of shoyu koji each and placed them in a Ziploc bag to marinate for about 4-5 hours. When dinnertime rolled around, I removed the fillets from the bag and placed them on a foil lined baking sheet and broiled them on high for 8-9 minutes on one side and about 3-4 minutes on the other. Shoyu koji burns easily so I kept a close eye on the salmon. The fillets came out perfect- the shoyu koji kept the fillets moist while crisping up the skin nicely and it seasoned and sweetened the fish itself.

Shoyu Koji




Note: The general rule for marinating with shio or shoyu koji- the marinade should amount to 10% of the total weight of the food your preparing.

Ally


9545 Folsom Blvd., Suite #2, Sacramento, CA 95827. (916) 363-8505.

About a week ago, my friend Rose and I found ourselves headed to a local Korean restaurant that we've dined at before for lunch. En route, for some unknown reason we decided to make a U-turn and pull into a squat strip mall and check out a (new to us) restaurant called Mo Du Rang (loosely translated to mean, "With Everyone"). I was a bit apprehensive at first about eating there as there was a big sign proclaiming, "Teriyaki and Korean Cuisine." (I tend to be a bit skeptical of places that arbitrarily pair different Asian cuisines together, my past experiences haven't been too great). Additionally, the area was a bit sketchy but the restaurant proved me wrong. It turned out to be a delightful little neighborhood joint. It was clean and family friendly. The decor was simple and the dining room was separated into sections by small decorative screens to give some privacy and there was no K-pop blaring from the TV or sound system (thank god). Our waitress double-dutied as the hostess and sat us at a nice spacious table for 4, even though there was only two of us. As we settled into our table, we were handed large laminated menus. Large, very extensive and intriguing menus. Mo Du Rang has the traditional Korean dishes of galbi (Korean BBQ ribs), bulgogi (marinated BBQ beef), doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew) and Jaengban Guku (cold noodles with veggies in a spicy sauce) but it also has some more daring dishes like Gopchang jeongol (a fiery guts and tripe casserole), golbaengi muchim (a hot and spicy sea snail salad with noodles) and hong au hwe (raw skate and veggies mixed with hot sauce). The menu was a pretty interesting read.


Choosing what to eat was hard. I love Korean food, I would eat it more often if I could drag Mr.S. to eat it more. Korean food--- spicy, stinky, sweet---I've been working my way through it for decades now. I've eaten masochistic Korean food (so scorching hot, I felt it burn it's way through my digestive system), amnesic Korean food (where I drank so much soju, that I couldn't recall anything I ate at the restaurant), mediocre Korean food (aka what I like to call McKorean food) and of course good ol' amazing Korean food. After some lengthy pondering, I finally decided to play it safe and ordered my favorite Korean comfort food dish- dolsot bibimbap. I know it's not very exciting, but I figured it'd be a good barometer (and I could seriously eat this dish every week, year round). It's simple, tasty and for the most part pretty healthy. I love the mélange of seasoned veggies (in this case carrots, mushrooms, sautéed greens, mung bean sprouts and gosari), bulgogi and an over-easy egg atop a mound of steamed rice-- all nestled in a hot stone bowl with a little sesame oil mixed in. Throw in a hefty squirt of the gochujang (spicy pepper) sauce and I'm good to go. My favorite part though of dolsot bibimbap is the faan jiew (the bits of crispy rice nestled at the bottom of the bowl).  It's like rice cracklin's! Mo Du Rang's version of dolsot bibimbap was delicious, my only beef was with the bulgogi. It was tender, just not very flavorful. Next time, I think I might skip adding the meat and just opt for some tofu or go sans supplemental protein.

My friend Rose ordered a dish I wasn't familiar with- mool naeng myun. In all honesty when it came to the table, I thought it kind of looked like a bowl of dirty dishwater. Rose was kind enough to give me a taste and it tasted great!  Mool naeng myun turned out to be long buckwheat noodles mixed with sliced beef and a smattering of vegetables in a slightly tangy, chilled broth. The broth itself is very light and the sharpness of the vinegar is tempered with a whisper of sweetness and spiciness. It's served in a chilled stainless bowl and is quite refreshing. A great summertime dish!



Mo Du Rang also turned out to have some great banchan (small, free side dishes). Everything from your customary kimchi and pickled spicy radishes to stir-fried fish cakes. I think when we went at lunchtime we had 8 or 9 small plates but I heard they give out a bigger array at dinnertime.

Now visiting Mo Du Rang isn't going to be some transcendental dining experience but they do provide a good spread and offer up some wonderful, authentic Korean dishes for the gastronomic adventurer and for the traditionalist. Their food is definitely better than some of the other popular Korean eateries I've visited on Folsom Boulevard. Also, the service we had when we popped in there was fantastic. Our waitress was absolutely terrific- something I usually don't say when I dine at Korean restaurants where getting ignored or getting a cranky server is the norm. It usually goes with the territory. This waitress though was super friendly, happy to answer any questions we had about the dishes on the menu and attentive to our dining needs. It made for a pleasant dining experience to not be getting the stink-eye from across the room.


Note: The restaurant is in a rougher part of the Rancho Cordova-Rosemont corridor (Folsom Blvd. between Butterfield and Bradshaw), so just keep that in mind if you're going after dark. When we were leaving the restaurant we passed a woman of the meth-head persuasion who was screaming into her phone, "I'm going to beat that baby out of you!" Um...yeah...we got in the car pretty quickly.
Ally
Davis Ranch L.L.C.
13501 Jackson Road, Sloughhouse, CA 95683
(916) 682-2658

The weather started to cool down a wee bit this weekend so I asked my friend Rose if she'd like to go with me out to Sloughhouse on Friday. I hadn't been out there in ages and was craving some of their sweet, fresh corn. We headed out on Jackson Highway and made the quiet, relaxing drive out to Davis Ranch where I stocked up on a big bag of white corn and some red potatoes. There was also a colorful array of squash, zucchini, gourds, beans, peppers and nuts out at the produce stand as well.




We then ambled out back to clip some juicy, red strawberries. Davis Ranch has a big lot where they have hanging strawberry baskets and you can pick your own ripe strawberries straight from the source.  You check in at the stand and they give you a pair of tiny scissors, a basket and instructions to, "wash your hands and clip the strawberries, not yank them." It's a fun summer activity especially if you have little ones with you. For us "older ones," it's great because there's no stooping involved. ☺ Note: The berries were on the smaller side but quite delicious.





Ally

 
Eleven years ago, I got married to my (now ex) husband. The marriage didn't last but we had a wonderful wedding in Hawaii at the Hale Koa Hotel. Now mind you, this was back before destination weddings became über trendy and everybody and their brother started having them there. Anyhow, if you haven't been to the Hale Koa and get the opportunity to check it out, do so. It's a lovely 70+ acre oasis nestled in the western corner of Waikiki. We had the wedding in a lush, tropical garden that backed up to a shimmering sandy beach. I couldn't have asked for a better backdrop for our nuptials. If it's so fantastic, why isn't everyone having their wedding at this particular venue, you ask? Well, the catch with the Hale Koa is that it's a hotel and resort owned by the Department of Defense and only for active duty or retired military and their families. Luckily, my dad's retired military so we were able to hold our wedding at this fab location for much less than all the other swanky places on the island.

One hurdle we encountered though during planning was that the hotel had a strict policy that only they could cater events held on their grounds so we had to let them do the food. What a bummer! Most of it was what you'd expect from a hotel's catering department except two courses which really stood out to me: our passion-guava wedding cake and the pineapple gazpacho (neither of which I think they offer anymore). Now, normally I'm not a fan of gazpacho (mostly because I detest tomatoes) but this chilled soup was so refreshing- an exquisitely balanced medley of sweet and tart with just a slight hint of spiciness...and no tomatoes! It was the perfect opening dish for an island wedding. I loved it! It was fun, it was light, it was tasty! Every summer since, I've always meant to try and replicate that soup but never got around to it. Finally during our recent mini heat wave, I decided to try and recreate it. I made several different recipes I found online and in various cookbooks and then took the ingredients and tastes I liked best to create my own version.

If you're sick of salads, this soup is a nice alternative during the dog days of summer; not to mention, that pineapple has a lot of anti-inflammatory qualities. Gazpacho is a great dish to whip up for parties, you could serve it in shot glasses for cocktail hour or if you want to fancy it up for a sit-down dinner, place it in chilled martini glasses. The best thing though is--it's simple to make and there's no hot stove or oven required.

Refreshing Pineapple Gazpacho

Ingredients

1 pound of pineapple, cut into chunks

1/2 of a large English cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped

1/3 cup diced red onion

1-2 scallions (mostly white), thinly sliced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 1/2 cups of DOLE pineapple-orange juice

3 tablespoons Italian dressing

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

sea salt and pepper, to taste (optional)


Instructions

1. Place all ingredients in a blender. Cover, blend until relatively smooth.

2. If you would like the soup to have a smoother texture/be thinner, you can put the soup through a chinois or sieve. If you would like it to be thicker, take a slice of crusty peasant bread, soak it in water, squeeze the water out, add it to the gazpacho and blend again.

3. Taste. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

4. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours so that the flavors have a chance to meld. Serve chilled.

5. Garnish with diced cucumber and bell pepper...or for some crunch, sprinkle with chopped macadamia nuts and some cilantro.

Ally
 
 
"Movin' to the country, I'm gonna eat a lot of peaches
Movin' to the country, I'm gonna eat a lot of peaches...

Millions of peaches, peaches for me
Millions of peaches, peaches for free" ☺

- "Peaches," by The Presidents of the United States of America

Twin Peaks Orchard in Newcastle is holding a summer harvest and open house this Sunday, July 14th from 10am-3pm. There will be a tractor pull, local food and wine, cooking demos, U-pick fruit sales and walking ranch tours. Bring the whole family out! Come check out their juicy peaches, scrumptious nectarines and fresh plums.



Admission is free.
For more info: Twin Peaks Orchard
Or contact: Sheila Enriquez at (916) 663-3270 or (916) 346-5569
Email: twinpeaksent@yahoo.com
Location: 6105 State Hwy 193, Newcastle, CA 95658      



Ally
Go Farm to Basket


You know how I love going on daytrips... well, I love going on picnics too- to the beach, the wine country even just down to McKinley Park. There's something just so romantic and timeless about it. Whenever we picnic though, I always think about how great it would be if someone else could pack the food for me so I could just relax and enjoy the day fully. Well, now there is! Sacramento Picnic Company is launching later this month. Their elegant baskets will be packed with fresh produce, tasty gourmet dishes and delicious local meat and artisan cheeses. I took a peek at their website and saw homemade jams and pickles listed, smoked salmon and chipotle deviled eggs with Osetra caviar, and creamy banana pudding listed amongst other goodies. This creative company offers "theme" baskets with prechosen items or you can customize your own basket. Baskets run roughly about $60. In addition to the food, the basket rental includes a picnic blanket, plates, silverware, napkins, glassware, wine opener, sparkling or still water and a map of some their favorite picnic spots. SPC will not have a brick and mortar location, instead they'll be cooking out of a local commercial kitchen and coordinating with local businesses, florists and vineyards to serve as pickup locations for the preordered baskets.

* I think this would also work great as a gift for new moms and dads. They're usually too exhausted to cook. What better than a romantic picnic basket full of tasty goodies so that they can picnic with their new bundle of joy?

More info: Sacramento Picnic Company
Phone: (916) 477-8269


Step Back in the Past



Remember The Coral Reef, Stan's Drive-In and The Hong Kong Café? These are just a few of the nostalgic food places that will be discussed next Wednesday. Time Tested Books in Midtown will be holding a reading, book signing and multimedia presentation of siblings Maryellen and Keith Burns' new book, "Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes."

The event is free and open to the public. July 17, 7pm. 1114 21st Street.
The book will be on sale at the event for $19.99.
More info: Time Tested Books


Vive la France!



Bastille Day is just around the corner and the folks at Matteo's/Supper Club have put together a pretty amazing French-inspired wine dinner to honor it. The menu will be offered on Monday, July 15th from 630pm-9pm and includes mouthwatering items such as crispy leg of Muscovy duck confit, classic steak au poivre with peppercorn crusted filet mignon and garlic butter basted escargot nestled in crimini mushroom caps.
Reservations are required so make yours now, before they fill up!

Location: Matteo's, 5132 Arden Way Carmichael
Cost: $58/pp + tax and gratuity

For more info, contact:
(916) 779-0727 or email: wineshop@pizzamatteo.com

For full menu & wine pairings: Matteo's Bastille Day Dinner


Pickle Me This


By now, most of us have heard about (or tasted) the awesome pickled products from local company, Preservation and Co. From pickled habanero chips to horseradish dilly beans, these Sacramentans are rockin' the house with their tasty preserved foods. Currently their products can be found at The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op, local Williams-Sonoma locations, and Amazon.com. They make a crazy-delicious zesty Bloody Mary mix that I received as a gift from a friend and used to make crockpot Bloody Mary chicken. Loved it! Supposedly, they're planning on coming out soon with a All-Natural Bloody Mary Mix soon that will be Gluten Free, Non-GMO, and preservative free. Can't wait!

Product Website: Preservation and Co.
More info: Jason@Preservationandco.com



Ally
5th & Junipero, Carmel, California 93923. (831) 624-2233
www.forgeintheforest.com


The last time I was at The Forge in the Forest was in the 8th grade. I was sporting big bangs, a piggyback perm and my favorite Esprit sweatshirt and Guess jean jacket. My best friend, Julie, and I were visiting her cousin Carol in Monterey and as a treat she took us to Carmel for lunch. It's been years and I've forgotten what I ate there and how it tasted but the memory of the lush green topiary that surrounds their patio is ingrained in my memory. I loved it, it was like eating in my own private little enchanted forest. So last week when Mr.S. and I were strolling about in Carmel, I suggested we pop in there for lunch. I had heard they were under new ownership, so I wasn't sure what to expect but I was excited to see the place again.


Every aspect of our lunch went swimmingly. Our host was welcoming and immediately led us to an intimate table for two on the brick patio. It was perfect, since it was located in the shade and we wouldn't be subjected to the blazing midday sun. For our meal choices, Mr.S. went with one of his favorite sandwiches- the Reuben. He never seems to get tired of those...or Club sandwiches for that matter. I was feeling a bit indecisive so I opted to get an appetizer and a salad. My appetizer, the duck empanadas with a pistachio nut chutney, was quite good. The empanadas were crisp and flaky on the outside and the duck meat inside was nice and moist. The chutney was ok...I would have liked something with a bit more kick...perhaps like a spicy mango jalapeno chutney? What surprised me though was the beet salad I ordered- it was HUGE! The salad consisted of a rainbow of roasted purple, golden and white beets (which were absolutely delicious) over a bed of mixed greens, crumbled goat cheese and juicy strawberry slices. They didn't skimp on the portion at all and everything tasted bright and fresh. I was impressed with the food. It was solid. Also, our server, Carly, did a great job. She was friendly, attentive and on top of everything.

If you're ever in Carmel, I would highly suggest stopping by for lunch at The Forge in the Forest.  The patio's really quite lovely and there appears to be a nice balance between regulars and tourists there. It's a perfect place to take a break from shopping, sip on a refreshing cocktail and people watch. There's also a big outdoor fireplace and heat lamps, so you can still enjoy eating al fresco comfortably even when the sun's not out. By the way, my fellow dog lovers will be happy to know that The Forge in the Forest is dog friendly (they even have a special dog menu), so you don't have to leave Fido at home. :)

Ally

I think this little photo sums it up pretty well. Don't you wish sometimes blogs had a block feature?

Labels: 3 comments | | edit post
Ally
5th Avenue between Mission Street & San Carlos, Carmel, CA 93921. (The city of Carmel does not use house/building numbers).
(831) 625-0501
http://www.casanovarestaurant.com

Last week, Mr.S. and I ducked away for a romantic getaway to Monterey. We booked a couple of nights at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa and relaxed. We slept in, ate great food and acted like two kids playing hooky. The hotel had this great outdoor fire pit where we cozied up to at night and watched the lights across the peninsula and listened to the soothing surf.



While we were in town  we went and checked out the Monterey Bay Aquarium (neither of us had been there in years). Mr.S. petted a stingray but I was too chicken to. I did say hello to this guy though:


A 11 lb. spiny lobster! Of course, I didn't tell him (her?) that I was picturing him grilled with a side of butter. We also spent some time gazing at the jellyfish exhibit (my favorite). I could spend hours in that room. There's something just so serene about the jellyfish with their translucent bodies floating against the blue background.





Speaking of food, for dinner we stumbled upon a lovely restaurant in Carmel. It looks like a quaint, little European country house from the outside but the inside actually goes pretty far back and they have two patios, one in the front and one in the middle. The restaurant is called Casanova's and it's quite romantic. We liked it so much, we ended up going there for dinner two nights in a row. The first night, we sat inside by a window at a cozy little two-top. The atmosphere with it's dim lights and rustic interior made us feel like we were in some small, intimate ristorante in Italy, I loved it. Our waiter, Alejo was fabulous - his service was polished and professional from start to finish and he was quite knowledgeable about the menu. After perusing the extensively long wine list (it's over 100 pages long with wines up to 5k and they employ multiple wine stewards), I started with a glass of the Domaine La Remejeanne Côtes du Rhône. It was okay- a bit spicy but pleasing to the palate. As we perused the menu (which was a mix of French and Italian inspired country-fare), our waiter brought over some fresh breadsticks with a tangy tapenade. For an appetizer, Mr.S. and I went with an order of their signature Gnocchi Casanova. These delicate little pillows of spinach in a heavenly Parmesan cream sauce were pure gastronomic bliss. The dumplings just melt in your mouth...and the sauce, oh the sauce! It was so rich and delicious, we set aside our manners and dipped a few breadsticks into it after we polished off the gnocchi. For dinner, Mr.S. ordered seared scallops with black truffle risotto, spring pea and carrot ragu and beef jus. He gave me a bite and it was wonderful. The scallops had a nice crispy sear and the risotto was creamy and perfectly cooked, it also had a bright aftertaste that I really enjoyed. For my entrée, Alejo recommended the Mount Meadows lamb rack with artichokes, caramelized onion, garlic and potato puree and jus and I went with that. I wasn't crazy about the artichokes and would have preferred another vegetable but overall the dish was delectable and well balanced- the lamb was tender and juicy, cooked to perfection and I absolutely loved the savory caramelized onions. Although we were quite full, we decided to splurge with some after dinner drinks and desserts. Mr.S. got an Americano, which they brought out on a charming little antique tray with a mini milk bottle for the creamer, a chocolate and a small biscotti (FYI: he's a huge coffee snob and he loved their brew). I went with one of my favorites-  Macallan 18, neat (which I saw made our server's eye twinkle). For our dessert, we got the tarte aux bananes and the beignet platter. The tarte aux bananes was composed of a vanilla custard, caramelized bananas, homemade vanilla whipped cream, caramel sauce and a crunchy graham cracker crust. It was delightful, no heavy burned banana taste or cloying sweetness. Now I have a real soft spot for beignets so I was hoping that Casanova's version wouldn't disappoint- and it didn't. When I bit into the lightly fried beignets, they were nice and crispy on the outside and soft and airy in the inside. Mmm! It also came with three "dipping sauces" - crème anglaise, chocolate sauce and a citrus marmalade on the side which was a nice touch. Alejo checked back on us regularly, didn't rush us and paced our courses perfectly. Ever leave a restaurant and have a happy afterglow for hours afterwards? That's how we were that night after our dinner at Casanova's. This restaurant delivered that night on ambiance, service and food. 5 stars in every category across the board. It felt like a truly memorable dining experience and the perfect place to take someone special; however...

I wish I could say when we came back the next night that it was the same, but it wasn't. This time we asked to be seated outside and maybe that was a mistake. We were seated at a small table, jammed up next to a tree on the patio/garden. The tables were so close together that I felt I was elbow to elbow and back to back with the other diners. It was quite cramped. Additionally, the music was so loud, I felt like Mr.S. and I were shouting at each other across the table. The topper though was that our waiter, Steve, was terrible...absolutely terrible. Maybe it was coming off of having flawless service from Alejo the night before but I found Steve's service to be bumbling, obtrusive and at times rude. Off the bat, he seemed PO'd that Mr.S. ordered sparkling water and I wanted a raspberry mojito (it was hot on the patio) and kept trying to push us to order wine. When we wouldn't budge, he stumbled off, pouting (yes, pouting!). Service was unbelievably slow from start to finish. When Steve came to take our order, he didn't ask what we liked, he just hurriedly pointed out what he liked in a sharp manner that made me feel like I was being barked at by a drill sergeant. Mr.S. and I decided to order a full order of the Gnocchi Casanova, instead of just an appetizer order, to start with this time since we liked it so much. Our drinks didn't come out until our appetizer was set on the table and then we had to ask for breadsticks and tapenade. (At this point, our waiter was making us feel like we were putting him out and we were obviously not a priority for him.) For dinner, Mr.S. ordered the same scallop dish that he had the night before. I, however, opted to order the Fresh Catch, which was described as fresh halibut, smoked mushrooms, and fiddlehead ferns with ricotta gnocchi. What I got was grouper and no fiddlehead ferns. As he's setting down my plate, Steve informs me out of the blue that they're out of halibut and they've substituted grouper, he says nothing about the MIA fiddlehead ferns. Um, I'm not sure why he couldn't have told me this BEFORE he was placing the dish in front of me? I'm a bit livid and annoyed at this point but I'm stuck, if I make a fuss and send it back, Mr.S. will either have to eat his dinner solo or sit there and wait for mine while his gets cold. I kept the stupid grouper but I was quite disappointed about Steve's bait and switch. (Note: the fish was cooked quite well, I liked how the skin was crispy and it wasn't overcooked. The sautéed greens that replaced the fiddlehead ferns were a bit bitter and boring, they didn't do much for me.) For dessert, we split the crème brulee (which was a nice size serving and not too sweet) and Mr.S. has another Americano. Steve doesn't check back on us so we have to flag him down to get more creamer. He does walk by a few minutes later to plop the check on the table though. Mr.S. places his credit card in the bill holder and sets it at the edge of the table. We finish dessert at a pretty leisurely pace and then wait another 15 minutes, Steve never comes by. Finally, in a fit of exasperation I take the check to the hostess up front , explain how we've been waiting and have her run it so we can leave. There's no afterglow after this particular dinner, in fact I think our waiter is a giant ass and definitely should not be working in fine dining. His service didn't lack because the place was busy or because he had a big section, it lacked because he was an awful waiter and wasn't motivated to provide good service. We tipped but only out of a feeling of obligation, I really felt that it wasn't deserved in the least. I've honestly had better service at Chili's. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped by Carmel Beach and watched the last bit of the sunset. The cool, smooth sand felt incredible between my toes, calmed me down and brought me back to vacation-mode.

So as you can see, I'm torn on recommending Casanova. The rustic charm and fabulous food really won me over, but the experience can be outstanding or extremely disappointing depending on who your server is.

* Patio is dog friendly
* Reservations (for dinner) highly recommended
* Supposedly there's a secret little special table in the back (private room) that was brought from France. Vincent Van Gough used to sit at it when he dined at Auberge Ravoux in Auver-sur-Oise.
* Menu changes seasonally
* Casanova will allow you to tour their wine cellar if you ask