Friday, July 27, 2012

Tiki Time on Shelter Island: Coming Home to Bali Hai

San Francisco -- OpenTable announced the 2012 Diners' Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Scenic View Restaurants in the United States.  The poll honored five San Diego dining favorites including The Marine Room, Bali Hai Restaurant, Bertand at Mister A's, Il Fornaio – Coronado, and Island Prime. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The winners span 29 states with California handily outpacing the pack with 37 honorees (see the complete press release and winners at Wine & Dine San Diego)

A few weeks ago, we just happened to cut out of work early on a Friday to try Bali Hai for lunch. We eagerly returned this afternoon to graze through the Pau Hana – Happy Hour menu, with a particular craving for the Hawaiian Tuna Poke Stack ($15 regularly, $10 during Happy Hour). We also loved the Mango Chili Calamari ($9) and Char Siu Pork & Pineapple Tamales. Our full review is published on Wine & Dine San Diego, but I also wanted to share it with you here.

Bali Hai: Tiki Time on Shelter Island
Coming Home to Bali Hai
Story and photos by Denise E. Jones, Wine & Dine San Diego Reporter

Bali Ha'i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you'll hear it call you:
"Come away...Come away."
Bali Ha'i will whisper
In the wind of the sea:
"Here am I, your special island!
Come to me, come to me!"

SAN DIEGO - In 1955, legendary restaurateur Tom Ham named his new showplace after the song popularized by the musical South Pacific. The Bali Hai was Shelter Island's first "tiki temple," and in its wake, the restaurant drew more tiki temples to Shelter Island, including the Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island Inn and Kona Inn. With its colorful history, authentic artifacts, sweeping bay and city views, freshly restyled restaurant and lounge and new executive chef, Bali Hai is calling you to experience sun-kissed summer menus offering distinctively vibrant fusion cuisine.

We recently enjoyed a leisurely Friday lunch in the bright, airy upstairs dining room, at a table nestled against the floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests also can choose seating on the newly constructed, 500-square-foot redwood deck to take full advantage of warm sunshine, bay breezes, cruising pelicans and diving terns. Renowned architect Graham Downes exceeded expectations in enhancing and embellishing Bali Hai's allure, including restoration of the famous original tikis – The Goof on the Roof, with its vibrant King Kamehameha colors, and Mr. Bali Hai, who welcomes guests at the front entrance.

Bali Hai has been family-operated for more than five decades, and owners Larry and Susie Baumann or one of their three sons may be on hand to welcome you. Larry was present that day, catering to both a wedding party and a celebration of a new Marine's graduation from boot camp. Larry provides complimentary lunches to MCRD graduates and donates to the Wounded Warriors Foundation. The Bali Hai always has been a popular venue for weddings, graduations, birthdays and other events given in its private dining rooms, outdoor spaces and gardens, but lunch convinced me that the "new" Bali Hai now offers outstanding cuisine, too.

The restaurant recently took home a Gold Medallion Award for Best Pacific Rim cuisine awarded by the San Diego County Chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

A late lunch demands a cocktail, and several are designed to ensure smooth sailing into the weekend. The ever-popular and mighty Mai Tai, a tantalizing combination of light and dark rums and triple sec, packs a tropical punch that you won't forget. Lighter options like the Acai Cosmopolitan may be smarter for those wearing heels or driving.

The lunch menu showcases inventive pupus, signature salads, sandwiches and house specials. Refreshing takes on old favorites include the Hawaiian tuna poke stack ($15), the Island sashimi salad ($18) and rock shrimp tacos ($13). We were very impressed by the delectable flavors and beautiful presentations. Neither of us could stop poking the poke stack with chopsticks; the dish generously layered sushi rice, creamy avocado, crunchy tobiko caviar and flavorful poke, garnished with julienned nori and a scattering of fried won ton strips. Good news: at happy hour, the poke stack costs $10. Gather up a group of friends, grab a table near the monumental bar, and cruise through the Pau Hana (a Hawaiian phrase meaning "after work") menu of such small plates as coconut shrimp, mango-chile calamari, char siu pork and pineapple tamales, wasabi fries and more ($4 - $10).

Island Sashimi Salad

Rock Shrimp Tacos

Poke Stack (photo courtesy of Bali Hai)

 During lunch, we also feasted on a salad of Asian cured salmon and beets ($12) complemented by peppery arugula, pickled fennel and surprisingly tasty tofu, all tossed in a Thai balsamic vinaigrette.

Salmon and Beet Salad

The market-priced catch of the day, beautiful pan-seared local halibut topped with crab and pea shoots, was surrounded by tidal pools of coconut-corn puree, red pepper emulsion and basil seeds.

Catch of the Day - Local Halibut

Unwilling to leave our special island too soon, we shared the caramel rum-roasted pineapple, deliciously sweet and sticky, lovingly paired with moist cinnamon crumb cake, a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a clever garnish of candied basil.

Caramel Rum-Roasted Pineapple

 Having read the dinner menu, we're eager to return for alluring options like seared diver scallops ($28) with glazed pork belly and sour kiwi sauce; miso-marinated black cod ($26) with furikake rice cake, tempura'd long beans and pickled shiitake mushrooms, and five-spiced duck breast ($25) with cauliflower puree, snap peas, duck confit and plum-orange glace.

Five-Spiced Duck Breast (photo courtesy of Bali Hai)

 Chef Ben Lieberman graciously stopped by the table and beamed with a passion and enthusiasm as bright as his smile. He discussed visiting farms on his way to work and how he developed a healthier style of cooking, which he uses in all the dishes he has created for Bali Hai.

Chef Ben Lieberman (photo courtesy of Bali Hai)

 The Bali Hai Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sunday. Dinner reservations are strongly recommended.

Bali Hai Restaurant
2230 Shelter Island Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 222 – 1181

Bali Hai (photo courtesy of Bali Hai)

Monumental Tiki Bar (photo courtesy of Bali Hai)

French Fridays with Dorie: Grilled Shrimp and Lemon Barley Pilaf Salad

After returning from four healthy days at Rancho La Puerta, where the cuisine is lacto-ovo vegetarian, and includes a seafood "catch of the day" five to six times a week for dinner (a lacto-ovo vegetarian is one who does not eat animal flesh of any kind, but consumes dairy and egg products), this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe featuring barley was very timely.

Just when John thought I might surprise him with a big juicy bacon cheeseburger for dinner, I served him a salad like one we would be enjoying on the olive-shaded patio outside the grand Spanish Colonial dining room at Rancho La Puerta. It was a little tough on both of us during our visit. John threatened to cook bacon in our casita's fireplace and open the windows to taunt some of the other guests with the aroma, and I was ready to smuggle wine in my water bottle to enjoy during dinner. But we managed to make it through the four days and returned home motivated to make some healthy changes in our lifestyle. I'll be writing an article for Wine & Dine San Diego about our visit to the Ranch soon.

Dorie's Lemon Barley Pilaf is designed to be served hot alongside chicken, veal, pork of fish. Another variation is serving the cooled pilaf tossed with diced chicken, ham, peas, and sliced scallions, over lightly dressed arugula or spinach, and topped with a mint and olive oil coulis. 

I made my own salad variation, tossing the cooled pilaf with a lightly dressed herb salad mix, blanched green beans, and baby Roma tomatoes, and topped with grilled shrimp. I found the lemon barley pilaf to be a bit bland on its own as a side dish, and my salad would have benefited from a zestier vinaigrette.

A slightly adapted version of Dorie's Lemon Barley Pilaf recipe can be found on Epicurious.  Note that the recipe in Around My French Table calls for cooking 1/2 cup pearl barley in 1 3/4 cups chicken broth and 1/2 cup water (Epicurious uses 3/4 cup barley and 2 cups chicken broth). I found Dorie's 2 1/4 cups liquid to be too much and had to drain the barley after cooking. Dorie also adds sliced scallions, in addition to the lemon zest, to the cooked pilaf just before serving.

Morning hike to Alex's Oak, overlooking Rancho La Puerta
Early morning on the Olive-shaded patio
Hydro-Fit Class

One of the Ranch dinner entrees

One of the Ranch desserts


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coronado Concerts in the Park - The Pacific Northwest

It's been hard rounding up the group this summer for our culinary themed Concerts in the Park, with travel and kids' activities, but we were able to get it together this week for The Pacific Northwest.

I immediately thought of salmon, crab, oysters, trout, halibut, cherries, berries and Pinot Noir and have a couple of awesome cookbooks I go to first when I want something fabulous and unique. Cindy Pawleyn's Big Small Plates is one that never disappoints. It is packed full of small plates/appetizer recipes perfect for parties and grazing. "An enticing alternative to conventional main-course cooking, Big Small Plates delivers the inspiration and insight that make this new way of eating - and entertaining - practical at home."

When I turned the page and saw the photo of Salmon, Halibut and Scallop Ceviche, I knew I had a winner for this week's themed picnic. This ceviche's uniqueness comes from the combination of fish used, the addition of coconut milk, and its presentation  -- served in chunks of fresh coconut. The fish is marinated in lime juice for the first 2 hours. It is then drained, transferred to a clean bowl, and a small amount of lime juice and the coconut milk is added, along with the red onion, serrano chile, sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. This marinates for another hour, but not longer than 6 hours or the fish will become overdone and mushy. Using a slotted spoon to drain off some of the lime-coconut liquid, the ceviche is spooned onto coconut chunks and then garnished.  This was gone in a matter of minutes, with rave reviews.

Salmon, Halibut, and Scallop Ceviche with Coconut

You can find a printable, PDF of the recipe, here. Obviously, you want to use only fresh seafood. I adapted the recipe only slightly. I used a small red onion, an entire serrano chile (seeds removed), about 8 ounces of coconut milk, and parsley. The original recipe garnishes with fried plantains, but I went with fried won tons (John was frying won tons for his dish and offered to make some in different shapes for me). Tortilla chips would also work well. If coconut shells are too much trouble, serve the ceviche in small bowls or in sea scallop shells. 

Garnished with avocado slices, parsley or cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil and fried won tons

Men in hats - love it!

John was back at it with a Pacific Northwest version of deviled eggs -- a deconstructed smoked salmon deviled egg on a fried won ton.  The inspiration for these "eggs" came from a great party dish we've made several times -- Emeril Lagasse's savory Smoked Salmon Cheesecake. Emeril's original recipe can be found here. John halved the recipe, baked a smaller cheesecake, and used a small scoop of the baked cheesecake filling on each fried won ton. He sliced and fanned out the egg white and then garnished with crumbled egg yolk, micro basil, and drizzled on the Green Onion Coulis that accompanies the original recipe.

Deconstructed Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs with Green Onion Coulis, on Fried Won Tons

Kai prepared Mini Crab Cakes, and Hillari -- yes, Hillari, made a Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Ball rolled in pistachios.

Kai's Crab Cakes
Hillari's Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Ball

Carmen and John were in sync this week and we were able to enjoy Carmen's Smoked Salmon Cheesecake in its original glory. Carmen added a few more Pacific Northwest garnishes to her version - chopped cherries and sliced apples.

Carmen's Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

For dessert, the beautiful fresh blackberries and blueberries had been calling to me all week, so I decided to adapt Saveur's recipe for Huckleberry Crisps, double it, and make bunch of mini crisps topped with Grand Mariner whipped cream (recipe below).

Mary and Geoff surprised us, and added chocolate dipped strawberries and cookies to the dessert line up. Great to see you two a least a few times during the summer ;-)

Mary & Geoff

Mary's Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and Oatmeal, White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

Blackberry and blueberry filling for the crisps

Crumble topping

Blackberry-Blueberry Crisps
Adapted from Saveur's Huckleberry Crisps
Makes 4 servings

6 tablespoons plus 1⁄2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1⁄4 cup rolled oats
1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
3⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
4 cups huckleberries or blueberries (I used 2 cups blackberries and 2 cups blueberries)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoon brandy (I used Grand Mariner)
Crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, for serving (I used Grand Mariner-spiked whipped cream)

1. Heat oven to 350°. Place four 6-ounce fluted ceramic ramekins on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, combine 6 tablespoons sugar, flour, oats, brown sugar, walnuts, lemon zest, 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly; transfer topping to freezer to let chill for 30 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the remaining sugar and salt, lemon juice, and remaining vanilla, along with the berries, cornstarch, and brandy; divide berry mixture between the ramekins. Mound some of the topping over each ramekin. Bake until the berries are bubbly and the topping is browned, 35–40 minutes. Top each crisp with a dollop of crème fraîche or whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Baked and ready to go to the park

So, that was our Pacific Northwest themed picnic in the park! We'll be traveling next week and will miss Rockola, one of the most popular concerts of the summer season. However, the rest of the group has threatened to take photos and hijack the blog with a guest post. It could be interesting...

Alec's Corvette

Don't forget the wine traveler!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Plum Sorbet Sandwiched Between Ginger Molasses Cookies

Summer has arrived, bringing along mobs of tourists, those who have escaped the heat in Arizona to enjoy their second homes here, and, specifically this past weekend, thousands of other San Diegans who simply love our village and beaches, Fourth of July Parade, and fireworks vantage points. If you live in Coronado this time of year, leave the car at home and walk or bike to your destination.

Trapper wasn't overly enthused when we adorned him with an extra bunting for his morning walk to Starbucks, but he amused those who were out at the crack of dawn snatching up the prime parade spots.

Following coffee, we deposited the pup back into the safety of his yard and set off to Pete and Julie's annual Pre-Parade Bloody Mary Breakfast. This year's parade theme was America's People. Here are a few photos...the full album is posted on Newf in My Soup's Facebook page.

The parade was followed by more cocktails, of course, and wonderful food at Jim and Carmen's Post-Parade Open House - pork chile verde, spicy beans and rice, guacamole and chips, and banana pudding. Then it was time for a long afternoon nap, in order to refresh for the evening festivities.

Over the weekend, I finally got around to making these Plum Sorbet Sandwiches with Molasses Cookies, a recipe that had called out to me every time I flipped through Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I have loved the few recipes I've tried from Suzanne Goin's, James Beard award-winning, cookbook and really do need to cook from it more often! It has about 130 recipes, arranged into 32, three-course menus (4 courses with dessert), and organized by season. This dessert is included in the summer chapter, menu 9, designed to be served following green goddess salad with romaine, cucumbers, and avocado; soft-shell crabs with lima bean salad, grilled bacon, and cornbread; and veal scaloppine with fresh corn polenta and salsa verde-brown butter.  If you enjoy throwing intimate, gourmet dinner parties, this should be one of your go-to cookbooks.

Plum Sorbet Sandwiches with Mary Jones from Cleveland's Molasses Cookies
From Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
(Makes 1 quart)

1 pound ripe plums
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 lemon, for juicing
Molasses cookies (recipe follows)

Cut the plums in half, remove the pits, and cut the halves in quarters.

Toss the plums with the sugar and honey, and let sit for 30 minutes. Transfer the fruit to a blender, and puree until very smooth. Season with lemon juice, to taste.

Chill at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Process the puree in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions (about 20 minutes).

To make each plum sorbet sandwich, scoop about 1/4 cup of the sorbet and place it on the bottom side of one of the cookies. Then place the bottom side of a second cookie over the ice cream and gently press to make a sandwich. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

Mary Jones from Cleveland's Molasses Cookies
(Makes about 24 cookies)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted to equal 1/2 cup, cooled
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Stir in the salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the molasses, sugar, melted shortening, and egg at medium speed for 3 minutes.

Turn off the mixer and add half the dry ingredients to the bowl. Turn the mixer to medium-low and mix to incorporate, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix to combine. Chill the dough for about 15 minutes to make it easier to work with.

On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out the cookies. Place them on a parchment-lined or lightly buttered baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle a little sugar over the tops of the cookies, and bake about 12 minutes, until they puff up slightly and are starting to crack in the middle. The cookies will be crisp on the outside and chewy in the center.

Newf Notes: Chef Goin uses Santa Rosa Plums which may be difficult to find outside of a few California Farmers' Markets. I substituted "Raspberry" pluots. I may have over-baked the cookies, waiting for them to start to "crack" in the middle. They were more like gingersnaps, and lost all chewiness. However, they did soften up a bit after the sandwiches were assembled and stored in the freezer. The sorbet was pretty soft just following churning, so you may want to allow it to firm up overnight in the freezer before assembling the cookies. 

You can also skip the sandwiching step and serve the sorbet in bowls with the cookies on the side.

"Few chefs in America have won more acclaim than Suzanne Goin, owner of Lucques restaurant. A chef of impeccable pedigree, she got her start cooking at some of the best restaurants in the world–L’Arpège. Olives, and Chez Panisse, to name a few–places where she acquired top-notch skills to match her already flawless culinary instincts. “A great many cooks have come through the kitchen at Chez Panisse,” observes the legendary Alice Waters, “But Suzanne Goin was a stand-out. We all knew immediately that one day she would have a restaurant of her own, and that other cooks would be coming to her for kitchen wisdom and a warm welcome.”

And come they have, in droves. Since opening her L.A. restaurant, Lucques, in 1998, Goin’s cooking has garnered extraordinary accolades. Lucques is now recognized as one of the best restaurants in the country, and she is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented chefs around. Goin’s gospel is her commitment to the freshest ingredients available; her way of combining those ingredients in novel but impeccably appropriate ways continues to awe those who dine at her restaurant. 

Her Sunday Supper menus at Lucques–ever changing and always tied to the produce of the season–have drawn raves from all quarters: critics, fellow chefs, and Lucques’s devoted clientele. Now, in her long-awaited cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Goin offers the general public, for the first time, the menus that have made her famous." 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Shucks, Why Did We Wait So Long? Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chile Butter

We're looking forward to returning to New Orleans, reclaiming our seats at Cochon's bar, and grazing through several of the small plates on the menu. But in the meantime, I will continue to pull out Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana, which has recipes for some of dishes served at Link's Cochon.  Delicacies like Fried Oyster and Bacon Sandwiches and Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chile Butter. I can't believe I've waited this long to try these grilled oysters at home!

The Garlic-Chile butter is incredible on the oysters, but I'm convinced it would be awesome on just about any grilled fish or shellfish, or even corn on the cob.

Garlic-Chile Butter

We took the scenic drive to the newly remodeled Point Loma Seafoods to buy our oysters, and a loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread. Add a bottle of wine, grilled vegetables, my man and my puppy, and it doesn't get any better on a warm summer evening in Coronado.

Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chile Butter
From Rustic Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
3 cloves garlic
2 anchovy fillets
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons Vietnamese garlic chile paste**
2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
16 oysters
Lemon wedges, for garnish

**Sriracha is a Vietnamese red chili sauce, but it is strictly chiles and doesn't have much depth to it - just a lot of heat. Vietnamese hot garlic chili sauce is different; it's made from chiles and garlic and has a little bit of sweetness that balances the heat.

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and allow it to soften to room temperature.

Mince the garlic, anchovy fillets and lemon zest (or mash in a mortar and pestle), and then fold in the butter, lemon juice, garlic chili sauce, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt.

Roll the butter into a log, or pack into small ramekins, cover with plastic and refrigerate until needed.

Open the oysters as you would for oysters on the half shell, discarding the top shells. Place about a tablespoon of the chilled compound butter on each oyster, and carefully place on a hot grill until the juices begin to bubble and the oyster curls up around the edges, 6 to 10 minutes (it's good to have some melted compound butter on hand to drizzle over the grilled oysters, to replenish any that spills out during grilling). Serve immediately, with wedges of fresh lemon.

What about me? I'd like to slurp down a few of those!