Monday, June 29, 2009

I've Moved!

Miss Lyss Foodie is now Diligently Dining...

My blog is under a new URL now, please head over to:

I hope you enjoy the new site!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ninety Degrees in Napa

I use most of my vacation time to go back to the Midwest and spend time with my family, so the recession term “staycation” is quite relevant for me (and was significant even pre-recession). One of my favorite “staycations” is a day trip to Napa Valley. Although the forecast for San Francisco was unusually warm, Franklin and I decided to head north to pick up some wine club shipments and knock a restaurant off Michael Bauer’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list.

Every moment of the day was full of bright colors and fragrant flowers, rounded out with friendly people and delicious food. The sights were incredible – the crimson Art Deco Golden Gate Bridge, the clear blue sky reflected in the Bay, a brilliant rainbow of wildflowers growing on the side of the roads, blackbirds with red-orange tipped wings, vibrant green grape vines.

A quick version of the itinerary involves:
  • Breakfast at La Boulange to fortify us for the drive (cheese Danish for me, ham and cheese croissant for him)
  • Wine tasting at Jessup Cellars in Yountville
  • Lunch on the back patio at Brix overlooking their garden with a view of the mountains
  • Tastings at St. Supery (still my favorite reds in the Valley), Frog’s Leap (organic before organic was chic), and Honig
  • Dinner at Barber’s Q (the top 100 restaurant we checked off)
Details on restaurants to follow, but these pictures give a good idea of the day.
Tasting flight at Frog's Leap.

Drive at Peju (we didn't stay, not our scene).

Wine train passing through Brix's backyard, and our lunchtime view.

Chandelier and patio awning at Brix.

Ribs, pulled pork and sausage and Barber's Q.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area - A16

The SF Chronicle just released Michael Bauer's list of the top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area and yours truly has only been to 25 of them. Gasp! Time to start working my way through the other 75 (and time to find a way to fund those meals!).

On a whim, I found myself at one of the restaurants on the list last night. A16 is my favorite spot to grab a pizza and a glass of wine. I was in the mood for Italian, so the Beau and I stopped by and ate at the bar. Well, "a pizza and a glass of wine" magically turned into "a pizza, burrata, olives and a few glasses of wine," but who can blame us? When a restaurant menu is as appealing as A16's, it's nearly impossible to walk away without trying multiple dishes. And why would anyone want to do so?

The olives came first. I am an absolute olive fanatic and these are some of my favorites; they use great blend of herbs (lots of rosemary and sage), garlic, and citrus. And they're perfectly cured. Culinairily, I don't think anything annoys me more than under-cured, inedible olives!

Next was the burrata. Eating this dish was the equivalent of a texture bomb exploding in my mouth. Think I'm being dramatic? Don't know what a texture bomb is? Try this dish. The creamy, sweet mozzarella nearly melted into the thin, super-crisp crostini while the olive oil drizzled on top coated our mouths in a silky film of almost-indistinguishable citrus.

The Salsiccia pizza was expertly cooked, of course, but the flavors lacked punch. It was topped with fennel sausage, spring onions, mozzarella and green chiles; we added an egg. The egg was a nice touch (egg yolk makes everything better...), but I think the best part of their pizzas (pizze, I suppose!) is actually the red chile oil that they serve as a condiment. It has a wonderfully flavorful heat, rather than being spicy just for the sake of being spicy.

Top the whole meal off with a few glasses of bold red Italian wine and great conversation, and we had a fantastic Tuesday night!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Winter Farmer's Market Salad

Oh, what a slacker I am! I have proven my initial point about New Year's resolutions, and I broke my own resolution by February! Well, hopefully this post will make up for it a little bit. I know those fennel-lovers out there will be happy...

I have a bit of an obsession with certain vegetables. This is rare for someone as staunch a carnivore as I, but some vegetables deserve (almost) the same level of devotion as their more popular protein counterparts. Brussels sprouts, arugula and artichokes are a few vegetables that I adore. But the subject of this week's posting is...FENNEL!

The Italian blood in my veins (well, half of it is Italian anyway) has left me with a deep appreciation of the flavor profile associated with fennel. Anise-flavored cookies, biscotti and pizzelle are a huge part of holiday celebrations in my family and I've always liked black licorice. Fennel is a relative of anise and has a much more delicate, subtle flavor that makes it more palatable for those that find anise too intense.

This side dish or appetizer is a pleaser to both the eyes and the taste buds. It's a gorgeous late winter or early spring salad that I put together after going to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Tuesday. If you can't find blood oranges, you can substitute any orange or even pink grapefruit. Enjoy!

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
Serves 4
  • 1 large fennel bulb or 2 small fennel bulbs. Cut off the stalks (saving some fronds for garnish), cut the bulb in half, peel off the outer layer, and wash.
  • 1 T fennel fronds, chopped (for garnish)
  • 2 blood oranges with rinds cut away, cut into supremes or thinly sliced into rounds.
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the OJ and olive oil in a large bowl then adding salt and pepper to taste.
2. Cut the fennel into very thin slices (I use a mandoline, but if you don't have one then just cut them about 1/8 of an inch thick. Toss with the vinaigrette.
3. Plate the salad by making a bed with the dressed fennel and arranging orange supremes/slices on top. Garnish with the fennel fronds.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Easy Weeknight Meal

I was standing at the abandoned seafood counter of my local Safeway one night last week trying to buy a handful of shrimp. As usual, every employee in the store completely ignored me. After about 10 minutes I realized that my plan of spicy shrimp and rice for dinner was not going to happen. Second choice: homemade miso soup with mushroom. Surprise! This fabulous Safeway was also out of miso. I did not have a third option.

I stormed over to the produce section to find the Beau and once again proclaim my hatred for this establishment and to despair over what on earth I was going to eat for dinner. Inspiration! He was standing next to some gorgeous fresh fennel, one of my latest obsessions. My backup comfort food is always pasta, so I ended up making this extremely easy dinner in less than 30 minutes. It was absolutely delicious, especially if you love fennel. I had leftovers for lunch the next day and it actually may have tasted even better then.

Sausage and fennel are natural together in Italian cuisine; most Italian sausages have fennel seeds in them so this dish might even taste familiar. The end result is a little drier than most Americans like their pasta, but it really allows the flavor and texture of the fresh pasta to come through. Try it out!
Sausage and Fennel Pasta
Serves 2-3
  • 1 package fresh linguine or fettuchine pasta, about 9 oz (dried will work as well, but only make about 1/2 a pound)
  • about 4 oz bulk spicy italian sausage
  • 1 bulb fresh fennel, stalks removed and the bulb cut into a rough chop.
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) seasoned diced tomatoes (I like the basil and oregano seasoned ones)
  • about 6 oz fresh mozzarella, cubed (you can just use grated Parmesan if you don't have fresh mozzarella)
  • 2 T vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil water for the pasta.
2. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking into bits, until done and no longer pink inside (5-8 minutes). Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon but leave the oil and fat in the skillet. Drain sausage on a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Cook the fennel in the skillet over medium heat until just tender (5-8 minutes).
4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
5. While the pasta is cooking, add the can of tomatoes and the sausage to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until some of the tomato liquid has evaporated and you have a sauce-like consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Mix together the sauce and pasta. Toss to combine. Top each serving with a handful of fresh mozzarella cubes (or grate some Parmesan over it if you don't have mozzarella).

Buon appetito!