poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Birthday Lunch at Mustards Grill

I hate to be that blogger that starts every post with an apology, but here it goes: I am sorry that I have been almost absent from this blog for the past few months. Even though I think it’s perfectly normal for blogs to ebb and flow, it makes me wonder why I have this blog when I have such a lag between posts. I’ve considered ending this blog, but I do feel like I have something to say every once in a while.  So, for any readers out there that have stayed with me, thanks for your patience! That said, this will be my last post of 2012, as I am embarking on a week-long vacation from the internet. So, I’ll see y’all in 2013, when I’ll debut a new recipes page and hopefully get back to CSA posts. Happy Holidays!


OK, back in October, it was my birthday. Due to my running addiction hobby, I thought it would be a great idea to run a half marathon on the morning of my birthday. AEW and I signed up for the Healdsburg Half Marathon, and TC came along to spectate. Since we were going to be up in wine country, I thought it would be a great idea to finally try Mustards Grill, a place in Napa that had been recommended to me more than 3 years ago by friends LGS and MS.

I made the reservation for the 3 of us, with plenty of time to relax after the race, change, and drive from Healdsburg to Napa. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn (I admit, it was my fault) and ended up being 5-10 minutes late. Even though we called, they said they could not hold our table for more than 15 minutes. Yikes! So it was a close call, but we made it just in the nick of time.

We sat down and ordered drinks. I think TC got a beer, I had a glass of wine, and AEW ordered a delicious sidecar (I believe there was some seasonal fruit in it. Pomegranate, perhaps?).  We were all very pleased with our drinks and the crusty bread, especially since we were super hungry.

Hm, what to order? Everything looked so good!

We decided to order a couple of appetizers to share: Sweet Corn Tamales with mushrooms, salsa, and pumpkin seeds, and Laotian Quail. We got the quail simply because it was listed as the favorite of Cindy Pawlcyn, the executive chef and owner of Mustards. The consensus was that the quail was disappointing. The tamales, on the other hand — OMG. They were definitely the highlight of the meal. So, so delicious.

The quail. Meh, in our opinion.

The quail. Meh, in our opinion.

This tamale was to die for!

This tamale was to die for!

We skipped the salads and went straight for the main entrees.  AEW got the pulled pork sandwich, which she enjoyed immensely. We also ordered a side of mac n cheese and grilled sweet potatoes to share. The mac and cheese was superb — it was more like cheesy baked pasta, especially since it was made with penne instead of macaroni. The sweet potatoes were ok. They were the white kind, which I’m not a huge fan of.

more food

Clockwise from top: pulled pork sandwich, mac and cheese, and grilled sweet potatoes.

This potato chip is half the size of AEW's face!

This potato chip is half the size of AEW’s face!

I got the ahi tuna sandwich, which was tasty. My only complaint is that I thought it was supposed to be seared, not cooked through as it ended up being. It was still flavorful and juicy though. TC went all out and got the rabbit, which he really enjoyed. I thought it was a bit “burnt” tasting, but AEW also liked it, so I guess I’m the odd woman out.

super close up of my ahi tuna sandwich

Super close up of my ahi tuna sandwich. The fries were tasty too.

Pan-cooked red wine rabbit "Frenchy style" with pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon.

Pan-cooked red wine rabbit “Frenchy style” with pearl onions, mushrooms, root vegetables, and bacon.

Since it was my birthday, I couldn’t resist getting a dessert. We shared a dark chocolate cake — I think it was the warm chocolate hazelnut truffle tart with caramel sauce, espresso ice cream, and praline. They even put a candle in it!

Not the best photo. I was probably too excited about the cake.

Not the best photo. I was probably too excited about the cake.

It was definitely a delicious meal and a wonderful part of a very memorable birthday celebration!


Birthday Love

As much as I love cooking meals at home with TC, it’s also nice to go out every now and then to a nice restaurant. Birthdays definitely call for a bit of celebration and indulgence, so a few weeks ago, I took TC to Greens in San Francisco for his birthday. Why Greens? First, being that it’s in Fort Mason, the dining room has a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands. Second, it’s one of the oldest higher-end vegetarian restaurants in the city, if not the country. Third (and related to #2), it sources all of its produce from local farmers and vendors, whom we like to support. Finally, a friend had given a strong recommendation, saying that Greens was one of his favorites. So, reservations were made and off we went!

We arrived 30 minutes early, but there was plenty of seating in the waiting area where we could also order drinks. We sat down next to a man in fishnets, high boots, no pants (that we could see), and an Under Armour mock turtleneck under a long blazer. Only in San Francisco!! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but trust me when I say it was a sight to behold.

The view of the dining room at Greens, from the waiting area.

I ordered a glass of prosecco (it was a celebration, after all) and TC opted for the raspberry mojito, which was sweet (but not too sweet) and potent.

Contemplating the menu over drinks.

We were seated promptly at 7:30, our reservation time. Fresh bread, toasted almonds, and water were brought to our table almost instantly. After our server introduced herself, I informed her that it was TC’s birthday. She gave him a quick glance and asked, “Don’t I know you…?” Well, as fate would have it, our server E dated one of TC’s good friends almost 10 years ago. After catching up a little, she took our orders and remained friendly, yet professional, for the remainder of the evening.

We had heard great things about the appetizers, so we ordered three. Yes, we’re pigs.
Roasted wild mushrooms with olive oil, salt, thyme, and sage. This was my favorite out of the appetizers.

Mmmm, wild mushrooms.

Sampler: Italian butter beans with pickled red onions, meyer lemon, and tarragon; spring pea and radish salad with arugula and mint; grilled artichoke with lemon oil; three beet salad; grilled herb slab; fromage blanc; olives. The butter beans were amazing, and I enjoyed the beets and cheese too. The artichokes were disappointing.

I still have dreams about those butter beans.

Artisan cheese plate. Nothing to write home about. Even TC wasn’t a huge fan.

Meh. Kinda dry, crumbly, and tasteless.

Oh yeah, did I mention the view?

Sunset over the Marin Headlands.

The birthday boy!


Not sure what look I’m going for here…

OK, on to the main course! TC ordered the butternut squash and sweet potato gratin, with poblano chilies, green onions, smoked cheddar, fromage blanc custard, and cilantro. It was served with tomatillo sauce, cashew cream, grilled polenta, and chard and kale with pumpkin seeds. If you go to Yelp, this dish is very polarizing; people either love it or hate it. TC absolutely fell in the former category. In fact, I think he’d eat this every day if he had the choice. It was very tasty — just the right blend of spices and textures.

Butternut squash and sweet potato gratin with polenta, kale, and chard.

I ordered the farro risotto with wild mushrooms, spring peas, fava leaves, leeks, green garlic, and shaved Pantaleo (cheese). It was good, but definitely not as tasty as TC’s gratin.

Farro risotto with wild mushrooms and peas.

What’s a birthday celebration without dessert? I ordered the chocolate torte with salted caramel ice cream and cocoa nibs. I loved the combination of flavors and textures. I also got a cup of decaf coffee, which was the most excellent coffee I’ve had in a long, long time. To me, it was how coffee should taste, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I’m sure it was like $5 or $6 (I didn’t look at the check before throwing down my credit card), but it was worth it.

I’m a sucker for chocolate cake.

TC triumphed again with the ordering. (Luck of the birthday boy?) He got the butterscotch pot de creme with pecan brittle and chantilly cream. It was amazing and I don’t even like butterscotch! Very creamy and rich, but without going overboard.

Our server E surprised us with two complimentary glasses of sauterne, in honor of TC’s birthday. So sweet! (Literally and figuratively.) All in all, we both had a great time at Greens. The atmosphere and service were great, and the food was wonderful. Even though the dining room was quite crowded, noise and neighboring conversations were never bothersome. I’d definitely go back again.

Happy birthday TC! xoxo


Crawfish Boil, NorCal Style

What would you do if your birthday was on Cinco de Mayo? Well, if you’re a true Southern boy like JG, you might opt to overnight ship about 60 pounds of crawfish from Louisiana to Oakland so that you can have an awesome crawfish boil for you and 25 lucky friends. This is actually the second time JG has hosted a crawfish boil; the last time was for his dirty 30 two years ago. Unfortunately, I was going through one of my, “Let me leave my camera at home so I can live more in the moment” periods, so I wasn’t able to catch all of the glory of that magical day. Luckily for me, and for you, dear readers, JG decided to host another crawfish boil for his 32nd birthday. Without further ado, here’s the gallery from that memorable affair.

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Thanks again to JG and his lovely wife Andrea for having us over. It was a fantastic party!