Single mom and former restaurant manager, now home cook extraordinnaire (if I do say so myself).

  • Location: Carpinteria, CA
  • Favorite foods: Cheese, cheese and cheese. I'm an ale snob, having managed a kitchen in an award-winning microbrewery. I also love good cuts of rare beef...I actually kind of eat like a cavewoman, come to think of it..
  • Last bite on earth: Big ole wedge of triple creme brie with a fresh raspberry and a spiced walnut half. Perfection.

Latest Comments

Staff Picks: Our Favorite Late-Night Snacks

2 eggo waffles, toasted. Spread one half with peanut butter, the other with Nutella. Add banana slices and a couple of pieces of bacon. Make into an eggo sandwich and try not to drool. Heaven.

An Introduction to Blue Cheese: 4 Beginner Blues for Newbies

Mild and wonderful Humboldt Fog is my go-to for getting people to eat blue. My 8-year-old loves it with grapes!

Chain Gang -- Do you secretly love a chain restaurant??

I love California Pizza Kitchen, too. It's a great choice when I can't make up my mind what type of cuisine I want, as they have dumbed-down versions of Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, etc. I'm kind of in love with the Waldorf salad there.
Also (and I can't believe no one mentioned it specifically), the FREAKIN' Orange Chicken at Panda Express has got crack in it. How else to explain my addiction? That and a root beer-which I only drink when I'm at Panda-and I'm a happy girl.

Food/Herbal remedies that work to cure what ails you? Got One?

Gin for PMS. It really works-found it in an old remedies book. I guess it's a mild diuretic (to ease bloat) as well as the slightly "who-gives-a-crap" qualities provided by the alcohol. And the book said it works better at room temp. I have no idea why, but it seems to be true.

You might be a foodie if...

...when you plan your honeymoon to travel the "BBQ Trail" though the south/southeast.
...when your five-year-old is clamoring for more seared ahi
...when your best friend comes over for dinner and you apologize that although all four courses are homemade, you had to use frozen berries in the clafoutis because the one's at Farmer's Market that week didn't meet expectations.

Dear Restaurants: I am so sick of seeing ******* on your menus!

The whole "put a fish we want to get rid of on a plank of wood" thing. The same fish, which is probably getting a little tired and needs to move, would be $6 cheaper without the inedible wood, and I, for one, am not a fan of splinters in my salmon.

Dear Restaurants: I am so sick of seeing ******* on your menus!

The whole "put a fish we want to get rid of on a plank of wood" thing. The same fish, which is probably getting a little tired and needs to move, would be $6 cheaper without the inedible wood, and I, for one, am not a fan of splinters in my salmon.

Is there one thing you *must* order if you see it on a menu?

Duck, lamb, rare beef (in a good chophouse).
Thai coconut milk soup.
Chiles rellenos. Rajas.
Veal at an Italian restaurant. Especially Saltimbocca.
Anything called "braised" or "slow-cooked".
Smoked meats. Smoked fish.
Any of those salads that have a great cheese (goat, roquefort, Maytag) coupled with fancy nuts (macadamias, candied walnuts/pecans, hazelnuts) and bits of fruit (especially apples or pears). It's gotten so bad with these salads that DH just calls them "Mandy Salads", because he knows they're my kryptonite.

Why salt my salad?

Maybe I'm crazy, but salt and pepper added to a salad "finishes" it for me. I put a little salt and pepper on nearly everything...I'm not one of THOSE people...I DO taste first...but I like that the bit of salt at the end seems to bring out the flavor of just about everything, including various greens and lettuces...possibly even especially salald greens, as their flavors tend to be subtle and can use the boost. That being said, I also tend to only use about half of the amount of dressing...guess I'm high-maintainance after all.

Ben and Jerry's Flavor Graveyard

Okay, so it's not in the graveyard, but my fave seems to be long gone...Coconut Almond Fudge Chip. I found it in scoop shops for a while, but can't even find it there in the last two or three years. Maybe it's just not a hit in Southern California, where I'm now living? Dunno, but boy howdy, I miss that stuff!

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Is the Customer Always Right?

@ Mr. Peurh: Thank you, sir. Well said. I am a bartender/mixologist/drink chef (to use the phrase from my fave joint in San Francisco, Street) and I don't care what I'm called. I'm still trying to make damn good cocktails. And although I'm only 32, I've been making drinks for 11 years and in this business for 16 years. I may be young, but not a punk.

Worst meal of your life

Norm's in Torrence. DH and I drove all the way from Carpinteria (by Santa Barbara) on a date-night because we'd seen the commercials and were anxious to try a "real" diner. Apparently had we turned left rather than right on the 1 in Santa Monica, we could have experienced the terrible food an hour earlier...but we turned right and followed PCH all the way to Torrence (admittedly, on a kid-free date-night, we like to go for drives and listen to OUR music). It was poorly lit, dingy, rather smelly, and some of the vinyl booths were repaired with duct tape. Rather than the late night crowd of hipsters we were expecting, it was full of teenaged boys eating the $4.99 prime rib special. I think I've effectively blocked out what we ate, suffice to say that I had an egg-thing and he had a sandwich-thing. It was awful and we had a two-plus hour drive back home to our ONE bathroom. It was a long night, and not so romantic.
Joe's Crab Shack sucks, too...Father's Day dinner @ the Ventura location last year...ick...and I'm pretty sure our waitress was cranked out.

Help ASAP! In Need of a Perfect Side Dish!

Grab a whole bunch of brussels sprouts and clean and halve them. Cook down some onions and pancetta in butter in a large skillet. Place the sprouts in the skillet, cut side down, and cook until tender and the cut side is nice and brown. Use tongs to pull sprouts out and pour a little chicken broth into the skillet, scraping the bottom for any browned bits and all onion and pancetta love. Bring to a boil, reduce for a moment or two, and pour over the sprouts. YUM! (Even wins over those pesky sprout-haters).
Also good...make a soup with roasted squash pureed with sauteed apples and onions and sage...just chicken broth to the right consistency...and add a little bacon if you feel like living it up.

If You Smelled Like Any Food...

Fresh pina coladas...coconut, pineapple and spice notes from the rum...yum!

Cooking for someone on medical marijuana?

For a healthful as well as tasty treat, I recommend a snack that all my crunchy-granola, back-to-the-land friends in Northern California make...they call them "Ganja Goo Balls", and they're essentially a healthy no-bake cookie. Cream the pot butter with some sweet substance (brown sugar, honey, agave nectar) and fold in any number of healthy and yummy things...start with rolled oats and add maybe some flax or wheat germ...add in some chopped dried fruit (dates are really good in this...figs, too)...some good quality unsalted nuts (walnuts are great for Omega-3s)...perhaps a little dark chocolate? I like to them roll the "batter" into a log and slice off into discs...keep in the refrigerator. Good luck, and I hope your friend finds some respite.

A Lousy Tipper Walks Into a Bar ...

Wow...I wish most of you drank at MY bar!

I have been a bartender for almost a decade, and am working for the first time in a very upscale establishment ($11-21 for a martini-style drink). All of our drinks are handshaken, use fresh fruits and fresh-squeezed juices and premium spirits. An average bloody mary takes a while to make, as we grind our own celery salt and grate our own horseradish. A mojito or a bramble can take even longer, what with the hand-selection of the best mint and berries and the muddling. I take a lot of pride in the drinks I serve, I love my job, and I always serve them with a smile.

You would be appalled (or if you're not, I may be describing you) at the stingy tips I get. Many people even use the higher price of a drink as the reason for not tipping better! As though I set the prices! I make minimum wage, and don't expect a lot from a patron if all I'm doing is pouring a glass of wine or a pint of beer. But if I'm making you a $16 bramble with fresh mint, limes and blackberries, I damn well expect more than a dollar!

And for those of you concerned with the poor service of cocktail waitstaff adversely affecting your bartender, you're absolutely right. I work where there is a generous "tip-out" from the servers, and I still get only 8% of their total liquor sales at the end of an evening (usually works out to $15-20 per server). So if they screw up your table and you tip them 10% on the total bill, I'm seeing 30-80 cents on that table. If your drink is great but your server sucks, by all means, stop by the bar on your way out and TIP THE TENDER! We will remember and be appreciative...and you'll probably not get sat down in the crappy section ever again (yes, we can influence these things).

Phew...glad that's off my chest.

Break Up Food/ Emotional Food

Four words: Bean soup and beer. Not only is bean soup eminently comforting...any bean, preferably simmered with a pork product (my faves are pintos with hamhock or northern white bean with fatback-or bacon if you can't get it), but one can eat and slurp and (gasp!) pass gas without any judgement, while also filling oneself with protein and nourishing carbs and nutrients. And the beer thing? Well, amber ale lends itself to bean soups (especially if served with corn bread...which I recommend). And real beer is alive. Get a good quality microbrew. It's rich and tasty, and if one must drink one's disappointments to a dull roar, beer is safe and cozy.
All that being said...
I'm sorry, honey. He didn't deserve you. Better luck next time. And (IMHO), one is better off single tan being taken advantage of or not appreciated.
Kiss, kiss, take care.

Served: My Plea To Tip Kindly

I work in a very upscale bar and restaurant in Southern California. I personally think that most people don't tip as well as they would if they knew what goes on with their tip after they leave it. A server in our restaurant has to tip out 5% of their sales to the expediters (the gentlemen who keep track of the courses as they come out and deliver them to the tables...these are the guys you see who don't actually take your order or reccommend wine to you, but can balance five plates on each arm). Then that server must tip out the same percentage to their bussers (who are resposible for clearing, keeping waters filled, bringing bread and butter, etc). Then the servers must tip out their bartender, based upon their liquor sales figures (that's me..oh, and then I also must tip out bussers and expediters for bringing and/or clearing any food consumed at the bar). So say the bill is $100. That's $5 to the bussers, $5 to the expediters, another few bucks for me if the diners drank...and if the diners left 15% ($15), the server is keeping a few bucks.
Granted, this is a problem. And it becomes more of a problem because then a server feels cheated and doesn't tip out internally the way s/he should. So things happen like that particular server's food always seems to come out a bit late, or the waters don't get filled as promptly as they could, or the drinks seem to be a bit weak...and then the cycle begins anew with the leaving of a smaller-than-average tip.
I don't know the solution. I know I'm irritated when I make drinks all night for a particular server and I get three dollars from them at the end of the night while they are claiming "bad tippers". But I know the servers are irritated at having had sales figures on food totalling $1500-2000 and walking out of the restaurant with 80 bucks. Maybe if we were salaried, this wouldn't be the case. But a lot of bartenders and servers I know do these kinds of jobs for the cash...there is an attraction in being able to put one's paychecks in the bank and never touch them because there is always cash in the pocket. Having served and bartended for years, I am a good tipper...quite good...but with the internal tip-out system varying from place to place, even I don't know if the tip I'm leaving will come out accurate for everyone in the end...and I can't afford to start tipping 40-50% across the board.
Phew...what's to be done?

Okay, What is for Dinner Tonight?

Pan-seared red snapper with mango-peach salsa over brown rice with a side of sauteed broccoli dressed with red chili flake and soy sauce. Yum!

What to dip my french fries in...

I love a belgian fries place in San Francisco called Frjtz (yes, no "i"), and they serve an amazing amount of dipping sauces. My favorites are the curried ketchup and the balsamic mayo...yum, yum, yum.

How do you tip?

I second the poster above who said that it's not fair to stiff a server due to a bad experience stemming from solmething awry in the kitchen. I've been a waitress and bartender both, and as a waitress, nothing sucks more than having a bad or nonexistant tip because the chef pulled a no-show and the sous is high on blow. Which has happened, in a restaurant that I used to work at, more than once.
As a bartender, there are better tips (at least in my experience) and infinitely more control. If I mess up your drink, not only do I not charge you for it, but I make you a new one to your specs. But the general rule of thumb for a bartender is one dollar per drink at an average watering hole. And that's PER DRINK, not per used to drive me nuts to make 3 martinis at once, and since they sent only one person from their party over to pick up the drinks, only one dollar was's a buck a drink, not a buck a round.

Eggplant Overload

I make and freeze baba ganoush every summer and it turns out surprisingly well...just be sure that the container in which you freeze is airtight, as freezer-burnt baba is no ganoush (I couldn't resist)!

already tired of pasta salad

I do a pasta salad that people seem to love, and it's based on waldorf salads. I use chive cream cheese, softened and thinned with some mayo as the dressing, and the salad has scallions, apples, grapes, walnuts, celery and some shredded cheddar. Add a grilled chicken breast and you've got dinner. I also tend to squeeze in a lemon if the dressing is thick, rather than add too much mayo. It's not exactly figure-friendly, but it's luscious!

too many roasted veggies!

Quiche! Yum! Roasted veggie quiche sounds fantastic...or a frittata, whatever your pleasure.

what are you planning to eat for the fourth of july?

We did burgers and dogs, but all the sides were with a Mexican flair, as we were with my brother-in-law's family. Beans, rice, Nana's wonderful squash dish with corn and cotija cheese, Papa's homegrown corn on the cob with lime and chile, fresh salsa and guacamole, and my contribution: bacon-wrapped chicken cubes, dredged in a mixture of brown sugar, cayenne and chili powder and baked @400 for 12 minutes...spicy, caramelized goodness.


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