Plink! Plink! Plink! I can hear the rain falling outside my living room window. What started out as a soft pitter-patter is now a full fledge symphony of raindrops hitting the glass and street. The air outside smells so earthy and clean. I think it's called petrichor...the scent that is, I read that somewhere once. I don't remember where. Anyhow, inside my cozy cottage, it still smells spicy...almost autumnal, from the persimmon cookies I baked this week. The aroma has been lingering, enveloping me each time I walk into the cottage. I don't mind, it's kind of a comforting smell.

My friend Dawn gave me a large sack of persimmons about a month ago. She had a tree that was overflowing with a bounty of persimmons according to her. Her generosity was much appreciated. I've slowly been using them up in various recipes as the mood strikes. I even puréed some and froze it, to be used in upcoming baked goods. One of the persimmon recipes I've made during my "Persimmon-fest" was a cookie recipe from a book that I had laying around called, Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook. If memory serves me correctly, I won it in a contest a few years ago. The recipe itself is simple enough and uses common spices that most of us have in our cupboard. So far everyone I gave some cookies to has enjoyed them immensely. The recipe called for Hachiya persimmons which I find a bit astringent in taste, I used Fuyu persimmons (the flat bottomed, squat ones).  I also subbed in pecans for the walnuts but other than that I followed the recipe as printed. The cookies have a subtle sweet persimmon taste which is balanced by the tartness from the dried cranberries. They're also more cakey than crunchy, so if you enjoy cookies of the cakey nature these will be right up your alley.

Enjoy and stay warm!

Persimmon Cookies (slightly adapted from Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook)


1 1/4 cups Fuyu persimmon pulp (roughly 2-3 soft persimmons)
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup pecans, chopped fine
1/2 cup dried cranberries


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets or line with Silpat.

2. Remove the stems and seeds of the persimmons, cut in chunks (no need to peel) and purée in a food processor until it's smooth.  * Be sure to use soft persimmons.

3. Cream the butter and both sugars until it's nice and creamy. Add in the orange zest, egg, vanilla and puréed persimmons. Mix well. Then add in the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix well. Finally, add in your pecans and dried cranberries. Then guess what? You got it- mix well (also scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the flour, etc. gets incorporated).

4. Drop the dough on your prepared cookie sheets. Roughly two tablespoons worth. The dough will be soft and kind of sticky, that's ok.

5. Bake for 15-25 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. Mine took about 17 minutes.

6. Remove from oven. Allow to cool. Serve.


2566 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 848-2758
Kiraku is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

I recently blogged about my day trip to Berkeley to visit the Takara Sake Factory; well, on the way home my friend Misa and I stopped at a wonderful little restaurant run by a Japanese couple (Daiki and Sanae Saito) called Kiraku. Kiraku (which means relaxed or comfortable) is not your typical Japanese restaurant like you'd find in Sacramento, it's an izakaya. I hear that term tossed about often but a true izakaya is an informal drinking establishment or tavern that serves small dishes called otsumami (snacks similar to tapas) to munch on while you knock back some (or a lot of) sake and beer. The drinking is supposed to be the main focus. The general vibe at an izakaya is casual, friendly and loud.

We were lucky that we showed up 15 minutes prior to when Kiraku opened for dinner. Even on a Sunday night, they filled up within 5 minutes and there was a lengthy line the entire time we were there. Once seated, we were given an oshibori (a hot, wet washcloth) to clean our hands with, which felt quite refreshing. To start,  Misa ordered some shōchū and I went with a small bottle of sake. Then we explored the menu...there was such a wide variety of interesting sounding dishes that it was really hard to decide. (Don't go expecting giant sushi rolls stuffed with cream cheese and drenched in mayo-sauce or monster-sized bowls of uber-sweet teriyaki chicken.) You won't find that at Kiraku. They have a standard menu as well as a separate sheet with the seasonal items to choose from. Many of the dishes were salty, crunchy or savory- just like what you would expect bar food to be, whilst other dishes are quite adventurous. Izakaya portion sizes are generally small, so we decided to order several dishes and share. For someone like me who loves to take a little bite here and there of several dishes during a restaurant visit, izakayas are my Disneyland. We ordered our food in rounds, 2 dishes here, 3 dishes there and so us time to savor the flavors and catch up on our girl talk.

For our first round, we indulged in:

Lotus Root Chips with Celery Salt

Albacore Tataki with Ponzu Sauce- The albacore was lightly seared, sliced into thin strips and tossed with small bits of red onion, tomato and scallions. There were hints of citrus and ginger, giving the dish a nice, clean taste that woke up my taste buds.

Spicy Jellyfish Salad- I loved this dish. The jellyfish was crisp and there was just a hint of spiciness. I'm pretty sure I tasted some sesame oil in there too. (I really want to recreate this dish at home.)

Our second round choices were a bit heavier. We shared a pint of Asahi (on tap) along with a plate of deep fried chicken cartilage. This is the perfect bar food...little, dark brown, seasoned, fried poppers of cartilage. Mmm! They're quite addicting. Maybe I'll make some for Superbowl Sunday?

Then we sampled some smoked pickles (iburi gakko) imported from Akita, pickled Takana leaves (Japanese mustard greens) and tiny fermented firefly squids. The pickles (carrots and daikon) had a nice deep smoky taste to them and I loved the saltiness of the Takana leaves but both Misa and I were not fans of the fermented squid. To me it was extremely pungent and tasted...umm...inky and dank. That's the best that I can describe it.

To get the squid taste out of our mouths, we moved to the corn tempura sprinkled with green tea salt. I had heard a lot of raves about this fun dish and wanted to check it out. It was okay, it reminded me of a funnel cake made from sweet corn niblets. It also kind of looked a bit like a bumpy fritter.

For our final heavy dish, we shared a skewer of grilled beef tongue with a yuzu miso sauce. Although simple, I liked this one. It reminded me of the yakitori stands in Japan. The meat was velvety (heavy, but tender) and the sauce wasn't overly salty.

To cleanse our palate and balance out our meal, we ordered a plate of the snapper sashimi. It was delicious- cut perfectly, super fresh and delicate. A little dish of heaven.

At this point we were thinking of ordering dessert but a dish that was en route to another table caught Misa's eye, so we had a plate of tatami iwashi (sheets of dried baby sardines). It was unusual - crunchy, thin like paper and had a mildly fishy taste. A ramekin of Kewpie accompanied it for dipping.

We closed out with two of Kiraku's fantastic desserts. Misa ordered their green tea ice cream with warabi mochi. I wasn't familiar with warabi mochi and I later learned that it's made from bracken starch instead of glutinous rice like regular mochi is. Her warabi mochi was dusted with matcha powder. I had a bite, it had a soft, grassy taste to it that was pleasant. I opted for the roasted tea blanc-manger. Oh my goodness...I seriously think this is one of my all time favorite desserts. It's the perfect choice if you prefer savory over sweet. The roasted tea flavor is subtle and the creamy custard part is silky smooth like a panna cotta. There's also a dab of whipped cream, anko (red bean paste) and tapioca pearls on top to make the dish look pretty and add added flavor.

I'm totally in love with Kiraku. The food was presented so beautifully and there was such an array of amazing flavors and inventive dishes. Service at this gem was also fast and friendly, our waitress was zooming around like Mighty Mouse all night. It definitely exceeded my expectations and I'll be going back and bringing Mr.S. Oh! They even have a bottle keep system for sake and shōchū, where you can order a big bottle and they hang on to the unfinished amount for you until your next visit (one month for sake, shōchū for three months). I wish we had something like Kiraku in Sacramento. It's the perfect late night hangout- good food, good drink and a laid-back atmosphere. Maybe just a smidge cheaper would be nice.

Mr.S. and I love scallops and I don't mean the nasty frozen ones that are injected with water and sodium tripolyphosphate  (STP is a preservative that plumps them up and makes them weigh more). Sunh Fish is within walking distance from my cottage so I able to get them nice and fresh on a pretty regular basis. Our favorite go to scallop recipe is just searing them in some clarified butter in a cast iron skillet, 2 minutes on each side- no poking or touching. They get that nice caramelized crust like you see in restaurants. Last night though I thought I'd try something a little different, so I made this recipe I came across in Bon Appetit- Scallops with Bok Choy and Miso. It turned out quite tasty but next time I'd change 2 things in the preparation. I'd drizzle the sauce on instead of pouring it over the scallops and bok choy as it's pretty strong and I would sear the scallops in clarified butter instead of cooking them in oil as the recipe suggests (I couldn't get that nice seared crust using the oil). Also, I added some sesame seeds for a little extra oomph. Still the final product was pretty solid. I would probably make this again with the above modifications. It's a pretty easy weeknight dinner to throw together. I served it with a side of couscous mixed with maitake mushrooms, sliced green onions and minced garlic.

By the way, if you've never used miso before, don't be intimidated. It's just soy beans mixed with rice or barley, sea salt and a starter called koji then fermented.  Miso paste is very versatile and you can use it in soups, vinaigrettes, pickling vegetables and even as a marinade. It's high in protein, vitamin K and vitamin B12. It has kind of an earthy, salty taste in my opinion. There's several different kinds of miso: white (shiro), red (aka), mixed miso (awase), brown (genmai) and yellow (shinshu). Shiro miso is the mildest and is what I tend to usually buy at the Japanese market.

Scallops and Baby Bok Choy with Miso Sauce


1 tablespoon yellow miso
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (I used a microplane)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil, divided
5 baby bok choys, sliced lengthwise
1 dozen large sea scallops, patted dry
fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon black and white sesame seeds


1.  Whisk yellow miso, seasoned rice vinegar, mirin and grated ginger in a bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Place your cut baby bok choy in the pan, cut side down. Allow to cook for a few minutes then flip. The bok choy will wilt slightly and get a few brown spots. Remove bok choy from pan and place on plates, cover to keep warm.

3. Sprinkle your scallops with fresh ground pepper. Skip salting them as the miso is salty. Add the remaining vegetable oil and sesame oil to the pan. Place scallops in pan. Cook about 1.5 to 2 minutes each side. Place scallops on plate.

4. Add the miso mixture you whisked to the pan. Warm it up. Add a tablespoon of water if it's too thick for your liking. Use a spoon and drizzle over scallops and baby bok choy.

5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Original version of the recipe:  Bon Appetit 


George Sterling, an American poet, once described San Francisco as, "[t]he city of cool grey love." I love that description and I've always been enamored with San Francisco- its rolling fog, Painted Ladies, and its effortless intermingling of bohemian vibrance and tech industry sterility. The city has an amazing soul that you can't help but let permeate you when you visit. I feel like I never run out of places to see...and the restaurants...the sheer number of cuisines available! Burmese, Senegalese, French, Egyptian, Portuguese, etc....not to mention some of the best dim sum and burritos I've ever had. The City by the Bay also has a phenomenal performing arts scene. I don't get into the city to see plays or musicals often but when I do, I'm usually impressed. Last week, I had the opportunity to take BART in and see The Book of Mormon at the Orpheum. BOM is probably one of the most hilarious musicals I've ever seen. From start to finish, the production had the audience in stitches. If you get the chance to catch it somewhere, do so. You'll love it! (And you'll never look at missionaries the same way again.)

That little trek into SF made me yearn a bit for some chilly, foggy weather. (It's been a pretty warm winter here in Sacramento.) Usually this time of the year, I'm snuggled up with warm blankets, drinking some hot tea and reading a good book or watching a movie; and of course, cooking hearty pots of liquid comfort (aka soup). Anyhow, I wasn't going to give up my soup season; so this weekend, I decided to make a big pot of potato-leek soup. It was the perfect way to pay homage to the winter produce at the local farmers' market. Now since I'm trying to lose a few lbs., I did omit the heavy cream and sub in milk instead. It still came out great. The result was a velvety, humble potage that was deeply satisfying. So what if it was almost 70 degrees outside? It still hit the spot.

Potage Parmentier  (Potato Leek Soup)

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large leeks (white and green part only)
1 small yellow onion, quartered then sliced into strips
5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
4 cups chicken stock
2 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper


1. First you want to slice and clean your leeks. They're sandy little suckers so you want to make sure you get all the grit out. If you've never worked with leeks before, here's an easy tutorial:
First, cut off the dark green part. We're not using it. You can keep it to make stock with or just chuck it- your call.  Then slice your leeks (the white and light green parts) lengthwise.

Next, slice the leeks into little half-moons.

Throw the sliced leeks into a colander or better yet the basket of your salad spinner. Place the basket in the bowl. Fill it with water. Give it a couple of good swirls with your hand. The leeks will float to the top and the grit will fall to the bottom. Pull the basket out. Dispose of the water and grit. Use the spinner to get rid of any excess water.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven, heat your butter over med-high heat. Add your onions and garlic. Let them cook a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Then add your leeks. Sprinkle a little salt. Gently sauté the onion, garlic and leek mixture for about 5-8 minutes until the mixture gets soft and slightly translucent.
3. Add your potatoes and chicken broth.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer.
5. Add your bay leaves, marjoram, white pepper and thyme. Cover and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

6. Remove the bay leaves. Use your immersion (hand) blender to blend. For a chunkier soup, just blend about 1/2 of the soup. For a creamier version, blend the whole pot.
7. Add in your milk and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Stir well. Taste, make adjustments if needed.
* (If you want your soup on the super thin side, you can always add a little more milk.)
8. Serve in bowls, hot. Garnish with croutons or fresh chopped chervil. Goes great with a loaf of crusty bread.


Jan. 19-26: Sacramento Baconfest

Jan. 20-21: 45th Anniversary of Old Spaghetti Factory. They're rolling back the prices to $4 and $5

Jan. 23: Bike Dog Tap Takeover at Broderick w/ Bacon Pairings

Jan. 23: Berryessa Gap's Big Pots, Big Reds Dinner

Jan. 24: The Art of Beer Invitational

Jan. 31: Naturalist Nouvelle Dinner by Tree House

Feb. 8: 25th Annual Sweet Potato Festival!events/c66t

Feb. 8: Vietnamese Tet Festival

Feb. 19-20: Food Processing Expo

Feb. 22: Carnaval

Feb .27-Mar.9: Sacramento Beer Festival

Mar. 10-11: River City Food Bank's Empty Bowls

Mar. 20-30: Sacramento Food Film Festival

Mar. 21-23: 8th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival (Petaluma)

Apr. 19: Sacramento Beer & Chili Festival

* Please note: Event dates are current as today's current post date. Please check the event's website for the most up to date information and any scheduling or location changes.


708 Addison Street (between 3rd St & 4th St), Berkeley, CA 94710. (510) 540-8250.

My friend Misa and I have known each other for about 8 or 9 years now. By happenstance we met in  a Japanese language group and clicked. It must have been kismet because it turned out we had a similar ethnic background (Caucasian/American dads and Japanese moms) and we both have an intense love of Japanese culture. Over the years, she's always been my go to girl for hitting up Japanese restaurants, movies and cultural events. So when I mentioned to her that there was an izakaya in Berkeley that we should try, she was down. We decided to make a mini day trip out of it by also swinging by the Takara Sake Museum. I had heard about the museum a few years ago and had wanted to stop by on several occasions but it always seemed like I was rushing to get to the Bay Area or back home and a side trip wasn't feasible.
Takara Sake USA (as this division of the company is called) has been in West Berkeley since 1982; however, Takara (which means "treasure" in Japanese) has been making shochu, sake and mirin in Kyoto since 1842. The Takara Sake Museum is located on Addison Street in Berkeley in an area populated by large industrial warehouses and cute cafes and includes a brewery and tasting room. It's in a very nondescript large, cream colored building. Look for the small sake tasting clapboard out front and when you enter, go up the stairs to the second level. For their naturally fermented Sho Chiku Bai brand they utilize rice from the Sacramento Valley and the snow melt from the Sierra Nevadas and apply their traditional sake making techniques.
Upon arrival, Misa and I watched a short interesting film on kurobito (sake makers) and the process of sake brewing. We learned about the meticulous process of milling and polishing of high-quality rice, washing and soaking the rice, the steaming, the planting of the Koji spores and the mixing of the mash. After the mash, the sake is exposed to yeast, pressed, filtered, settled, pasteurized and then aged. Whew! Lots of steps and each step is done with precision and care.

Diagram Source:

Afterwards, we took a stroll through the mini museum and took in the various antique mixing paddles, heavy wooden buckets, cedar barrels and the giant turn of the century press with stone weights. I have to confess- I loved the smell in the museum...have you ever been in a wine cavern? To me it was a similar experience, it was like an intoxicating perfume composed of intermingling notes of sweetness and sharp tanginess. I kept taking deep breathes to inhale more of the potent aroma as it seemed to have a relaxing zen-like effect on me. (Too bad they don't sell sake factory candles.) We made our way back to the tasting room which I found to be beautiful- it was spacious and airy with granite floor tiles containing glass from recycled bottles and a wooden roof framing made from reclaimed Douglas fir. We took a few photos at the raised tatami floor sitting area and checked out the giant bird mobiles that circled over our heads. I particularly loved learning about the fresh cedar leaf balls (sakabayashi) that are hung outside of a sake maker's brewery to signify when a new non-aged sake has been completed. The browning of the cedar leaves parallels the sake aging process and when the leaves turn a dark brown, the sake is considered matured and ready.

Now for the sake....For just $5 you can choose 5-6 sakes to sample. Misa and I chose different flights and shared so they we could taste a bigger variety of sakes. Most flights include a sake from one of the 5 categories (Classic, ginjo, nama, nigori and tokubetsu junmai) where you move from full-bodied to sweet; but there's also a flight package where you can just choose whatever assortment you want.

We tried:
Sho Chiku Bai Classic- a traditional sake, served warm. It's slightly dry and full bodied
Shirakabe Gura Tokubetsu Junmai- served warm, complex taste, very smooth
Sho Chiku Bai Kinpaku- served chilled, contains gold flecks, has a slight mellow aroma

Sho Chiku Bai Kinpaku - recognizable by its tiny gold flecks

Sho Chiku Bai Antique- served chilled, has a strong floral aroma and is super smooth
Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Crème de Sake- served chilled, delicate fruity smell, a subtle honeydew finish, milky white in color
Sho Chiku Bai Nigori, Silky Blend- served chilled, sweet, slightly coconut undertone, milky white in color
Koshu Plum Sake- served chilled, beautiful almond scent, sweet cherry taste
Mio Sparking Sake- served chilled, effervescent, sweet aroma, slight fruity flavor, tangy, refreshing
Takara Sierra Cold- served chilled, very light, gentle, would be a perfect summer drink
Sho Chiku Bai Nama- served chilled, unpasteurized, slightly fruity with a vanilla undertone
Sho Chiku Bai Rei- served chilled, classic unpasteurized, floral scent
We also sampled some flavored sakes- Fuji apple, lychee, white peach and raspberry- these tasted like candy. Very delicious and sweet.
Bottles are available for purchase in the tasting room and are budget friendly. The ladies who work at the tasting bar are super friendly and helpful. I think they liked us a lot because they chatted with us in Japanese, let us taste a lot of extra sakes and even gave us a special otoso sachet to take home. An otoso is a special drink that the Japanese partake in during New Years. It consists of a special spice blend that you steep in either warm mirin or sake. Kind of like a Japanese version of mulled wine, I suppose. The sachets we were given had a lovely scent including hints of cinnamon. Otoso supposedly keeps you healthy in the coming year and casts away evil spirits, so I'm excited to try it.

Otoso packet, slightly wrinkled from being in my purse

If you get a chance, I would highly recommend visiting the Takara Sake Museum. It's such a fun little day trip and you'll learn so much about the history of Japanese sake making and the various sake tastes.

Kampai! ☺

7399 St Helena Hwy, Yountville, CA 94558. (707) 944-2424

Can you believe what lovely weather we Sacramentans have been experiencing? It's been so warm that the daffodils in my courtyard have started pushing up early. My folks have been keeping me abreast of the temps in Kansas City (-5 degrees during the day) and I've heard from friends in states like Wisconsin that the current temp is -20 but it's expected possibly to drop to -40 degrees. How insane is that? It's times like these that I'm thankful that I live in Sacramento where the weather is pretty moderate. I've done my time in the Midwest (South Dakota, Illinois and Kansas) not to mention Alaska and I do not like below zero weather. Anyhow, if you're in Sacramento and want to get out and enjoy this lovely weather and soak in a little sun, take a little day trip out to the wine country and check out Cindy Pawlcyn's Mustards Grill. The casual eatery is located just off the St.Helena Highway in Yountville and has been feeding folks for about 30 years.

Mr.S's brother recently purchased a home in Napa and we went out to visit. Mr.S helped him move his treadmill from one of the bedrooms into the garage and as a thank you, he took us (Mr.S, Kidlet #1, and myself) to Mustards Grill for lunch. The small restaurant is a one story white affair with the words "Steak - Chops - Ribs - Garden Produce - Way Too Many Wines" emblazoned above the large picture windows in mustard yellow. It has a bit of a diner flair to it which I really liked- black and white checkerboard lino, specials highlighted on several chalkboard menus and lots of natural light. You walk right into the hustle and bustle and if you're lucky you get seated right away, if you're not- settle in it could be a long wait. The restaurant is quite popular with both local and out-of-towners alike. If you get stuck waiting, take the opportunity to step outside and meander through their gorgeous 2 acre garden which the eatery sources 20% of it's vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs from.

We were seated in one of the half-booths against the wall of windows. Crisp white tablecloths and linens, wood furnishings and gleaming glassware gave the restaurant a very clean, airy feeling. (My only issue during my visit, was that the linens were extremely linty and my white napkin left my black sweater looking like an avalanche of dandruff had been dropped along the front lower half of it.) The dress code is California casual (a lot of jeans and sweaters) and it's a fun place to people watch. If you're into wines, they have a large selection. Just peruse through their wine book, appropriately labeled, "Way Too Many Wines."

When it came time to order, making a decision was difficult. Everything on the seasonal menu sounded phenomenal and fresh. There was a little bit of everything on the menu- lamb, duck, ahi, ribs....I knew that the restaurant's signature dish was their Mongolian pork chops with sweet and sour cabbage slaw and house made mustard but the lobster risotto on the specials board caught my eye. Mr.S decided to give the grilled rabbit a try.

We started with some Dungeness crab cakes that were delicious. Nice and meaty inside and wonderfully crispy on the outside. We had four people so we ordered two orders so that each of us could have our own plump crab cake topped with a bit of chipotle aioli. Our server had the kitchen split the orders onto individual plates without our needing to ask. Nice touch! Mr.S's brother really enjoyed the arugula salad with molasses vinaigrette that came with the order.

My lobster risotto was outstanding. Much like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, most risotto I encounter is overcooked, undercooked, or flavorless. This one was juuuuust right! There were large chunks of meaty Maine lobster, a mélange of earthy black trumpet and chanterelle mushrooms, and a fresh garden mint and arugula salsa verde drizzled across the top. The risotto was light (definitely not creamed based like some places do it) but still exuded a lot of flavor. In fact, I prefer it prepared this way. It was quite a large portion and I couldn't finish it. I took the leftovers home, added some homemade breadcrumbs and made some scrumptious lobster arancini for dinner.

Mr.S was nice enough to swap a few bites with me and his rabbit dish was superb. Grilled flawlessly. There was no hint of gaminess, it was juicy and tender and huge in flavor. The rabbit was accompanied by a large serving of shredded Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes and topped with a heavenly mustard sauce. That sauce---whew! I need to learn how to make it, I'm totally in love with it. It was creamy with the perfect amount of Dijon infused through it. Honestly, each bite I had tasted even better than the previous bite, if that's even possible. Mr.S is lucky I didn't eat my lunch AND his!

Our server was a pro. Friendly, helpful and on top of everything. She knew how to balance being attentive without being bothersome. Kudos! I would most definitely visit Mustards again for some good solid comfort food. In fact, one of the things I loved about Mustards was that they confidently display a sign that states, "Sorry, Everything is Delicious,"...and everything really is! I doubt Cindy Pawlcyn and her crew could turn out a dish that's less than fabulous even if they tried.

Happy (Belated) New Year! I hope you all welcomed the new year healthy and vibrant; unlike me, who was laid up with the creeping crud (aka the horrendous cold that everyone seems to be getting). I started exhibiting symptoms on Christmas Eve and am just now starting to feel normal as we embark on the second week of January. I had the whole symptom shebang- major congestion, aches, fever, sinus pressure and coughing. For about a week my voice was so raspy that I probably could have passed for a phone sex operator. Thanks to loads of Afrin, Nyquil, Sudafed and several boxes of Puffs with Lotion, I'm almost back to my usual sassy self. I didn't cook much during my illness but I did crawl out of my death bed to make a terrific NYE meal. Mr. S and I had both kidlets so we opted for a night in at his house (too many amateurs out there guzzling champagne for my taste) and invited his brother to join us. To usher in the new year, I decided to break in my new red Dutch oven and make a Jamie Oliver recipe that I had been eyeballing for awhile- Chicken in Milk. This recipe is from his cookbook, "Happy Days With The Naked Chef." I know, I know...chicken in milk sounds slightly unappetizing, but trust me this recipe is wonderful! Combining milk with lemon, you would think you would end up with a rancid pot of curdled milk, right? Nope! In this case, the unusual combination creates a flavorful sauce with some dodgy looking but delicious cheese-like curds. It's toe-curling good! Not only that, but while it's cooking it will fill your house with heavenly aromas. I didn't change much from the original recipe- I did sub in boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they're easier to portion and serve. Additionally, I adjusted the amount of butter and the cooking time and I added a ton more garlic. The roasted butter makes a delectable savory spread if you're serving bread/rolls with your dinner. Seriously, this is the perfect comfort food meal when you are feeling less than stellar- quick to assemble and cook and aces in the flavor department.

Braised Chicken in Milk (adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe)
Feeds 5


  • 12 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken thigh (roughly 3 lbs.) 
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 good handful fresh sage, leaves picked
  • zest from 2 lemons (I used 3 b/c mine were small Meyers)
  • 15 garlic cloves, skins left on
  • 1 pint whole milk (don't sub in soy, coconut almond, or ultra-pasteurized milk- it won't come out as good)
    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    2. Season your chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper (on both sides). In a large Dutch oven (I used a 6 quart one), heat up your butter. Fry your chicken in the butter until it gets nice and golden. Place done thighs on a separate dish.
    3. Discard the leftover butter but leave the sticky, brown bits at the bottom of the pot. The brown bits will infuse additional flavor into your sauce.
    4. Add your cinnamon stick, sage, lemon zest, garlic cloves and milk to the pot. (Tip: don't use a microplane for your zest in this recipe- it'll get gunky as it cooks. Use a veggie peeler, peel large strips of lemon peel off... -no pith-... and then slice them up into thin sticks.)
    Give the mixture a good stir. Then return your chicken thighs to the pot.
    5. Place the pot in the oven (with the lid on), cook for 30 minutes. Give the chicken thighs a good baste.
    6. Remove the lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until done.
    7. When done, remove pot from oven. The chicken thighs will be so tender they will almost fall apart.
    8. Fish out the garlic cloves. Using your fingers, push the roasted garlic innards out of the skins and place in a bowl. Ditch the cinnamon stick.
    9.  Drizzle the chicken with the remaining sauce and serve with your favorite side. I made shaved Brussels sprouts with bacon, some rice and included a few rosemary/Parmesan rolls (which we slathered with the warm roasted garlic) to sop up all that liquid gold (sauce).
    This dish would also go great with mashed potatoes or wilted greens.
    * (If the texture of the chicken drippings/milk sauce oogs you out, give it a quick whirl with an immersion blender over medium heat, it'll give it a smoother consistency).
    * If you are one of those people who absolutely abhor sage, you can sub in thyme and rosemary. The final taste will (obviously) be slightly different.