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Saturday, February 27, 2016

San Francisco Fun- Mourad and Dirty Dancing

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants and having been to over 800, my wife Linda and I recently spent a glorious day in the "great city by the bay" having lunch at Mourad and going to see the play Dirty Dancing. 
Moroccan born chef Mourad Lahlou earned a Michelin star at his outer Richmond restaurant Aziza. His new restaurant represents recipes from his Moroccan roots and a modern decor. In fact when you enter the restaurant, there is a replica of a large root representing his Moroccan connection.
Linda knew of Mourad when she attended the cooking classes that were presented by the Embarcadero Center on Saturday mornings last fall.  She and a friend attended a class where Mourad was the guest chef of the day.  He talked about his Moroccan roots and how he came to San Francisco after being one of the first to graduate from college in his family.  He got a job in the finance business and worked day and night but found time to cook for his friends in his small kitchen at home.  His food was so great that his friends told him he should open a restaurant.  He shrugged it off lightly, but then brought his Mama to San Francisco to teach him all the secrets of her recipes.  After that his first restaurant Aziza was born. 
The day of the cooking class Mourad taught the audience how to make a dish called Basteeya. It is a meat pie topped with sweetened and spiced ground almonds covered in a phyllo dough. Mourad makes his version of the Basteeya with confited duck legs cured overnight in a blend of North African spices and then mixes it with caramelized onions and raisins and wraps it in phyllo.  Mourad says "it's savory, moist, tender and it has a crunch."  It is a divine selection with a surprise in every bite.
We had an opportunity to meet Mourad and he proudly recommended some of his foodie creations. Our server Marcus was also very knowledgeable and attentive. The bar has an extensive wine list and a variety of specialty cocktails. 

We began with the deviled eggs with cumin, pickles and chicken crackling that were fantastic. I ordered the Harira lentil soup with dates and celery that was seasoned to perfection and served steamy hot.

For the entree, Linda ordered the Basteeya.   I ordered the salmon with persimmon, lentil, citron and curry that tasted like it just came out of the sea.

For dessert we shared the Paris-Brest with honey, almond and beeswax that was like a delicacy served for Moroccan royalty. Paris-Brest is a French Dessert made of choux pastry and a praline flavored cream.  It resembles a bicycle wheel and it was named after a bicycle race in 1891 that ran from Paris to Brest and back again as the precursor for the Tour de France.

We concluded with some peppermint tea served in shot glasses that was hot and soothing. 

After this great lunch, we walked to the Golden Gate Theater and saw the vibrant and fun play Dirty Dancing made famous by Patrick Swaze in 1987. 

Mourad has only been open a year but word is traveling fast among San Francisco foodies and will soon be rated very high like his other 1 star Michelin rated restaurant Aziza. We look forward to going back soon.  
For more information and to make reservations go to:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"A Perfect Napa Day"

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants( 800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries (300 and counting), my wife Linda recently visited  Kieu Hoang Winery in Napa. Our wine and food associate from Michigan Karen Halip also joined us for this "perfect day in Napa."

Kieu Hoang is located about an hour ride from our home in Danville. It was purchased last year from the Mondavi  Family Estate by a successful self made businessman named Kieu Hoang originally from Vietnam.  Our host was Edgar who was full of interesting stories and very knowledgeable.

Their winery offers a serene setting on a large porch where you can bring your own food or order from nearby Browns Valley Market.  Their wine labels are also very unique and represent a microscopic picture of a grape cell in various bright colors.

Edgar was very generous with our tasting.  We enjoyed all of their wines sitting on their comfortable chairs and enjoying the beauty of the bright yellow mustard plant in full bloom highlighting their 20 rolling acres of vines.

Their wines are very reasonably priced and we took home a bottle of the 2012 Peoples Red Wine blend for $24.00 and a bottle of the 2013 Chardonnay Carneros for $35.00. My favorite was the 100 per cent Cabernet 2012 Red Label for $60.00 that also made the trip home to Danville.,

 This winery is sure to be a "must do" in Napa as the word gets out about their wine and great place to have an elegant picnic.

 After this private tasting, we drove to nearby Yountville for a great foodie lunch at Bouchon owned by famous chef and French Laundry owner Thomas Keller. The restaurant features an open oyster bar with a very skilled server preparing  elaborate works of food art for the many happy patrons.

The restaurant has the Thomas Keller feeling of "world class excellence" with very knowledgeable long tenure servers proudly educating you about their variety of special drinks and food choices.

 Linda chose the Quiche which she described as "the best she had ever eaten."  It was so good that she bought the Bouchon cook book and promised to make it when we got back home. Karen ordered the mussels served in a cast iron bowl with a mustard wine sauce and sour dough bread that brought an eternal smile to her face.  The "best ever" trifecta of entrees was completed when my Croque  Madame was served to  "picture perfect perfection."

There are a variety of freshly made  desserts  that can also be bought at the bakery next door or ordered from the menu. We took home some pecan rolls ala "sticky buns."

 For more information and to make reservations go to: