The Emergency Room

He climbed out of the car with difficulty, grasping the frame of the car trying to place his hands anywhere for leverage. With a great deal of effort he slowly moved his leg, wincing as it moved. Finally he placed his foot on the ground and stood. Stooping, he looked at me and I noticed his face was gaunt and he looked tired.

He shuffled as we walked into the comfort of the warm house. His left leg was very swollen causing the fabric to stretch tightly. To accommodate his swollen feet he had taken the heel of the shoe and broke it, mashing it into the sole of the shoe to create a slip on.

We talked for a bit and he said he had a hernia. He wanted me to take him to the doctor because the doctors in So CA did not know what they were doing. The hernia was causing a blood infection in his leg and that was the problem. He said he had made an appointment the night before and his appointment was at 10:00 AM in building 777. Since it was early Tuesday morning, traffic would be bad so we left at 8:30.

My father had served in the Air Force for 28 years. As a child we had lived in Ohio, Washington, France, Turkey, Delaware, and finally settled in Southern CA because my mother wanted to live in a place that had lots of Japanese food. He served two tours of duty in Viet Nam. He retired from the Air Force and then held various jobs. Because of his service in the Air Force his retirement benefit included medical care.

We drove to the Air Base and were waved through the gate by the sentry. T As I parked the car, I asked my father what was the name of the doctor. He didn’t know. I asked him in what department was he supposed to be seen. He didn’t know.  I asked him who he spoke with to make the appointment. He didn’t know that either. LESSON 1: Make Sure to have Names Before Driving. After spending about 1 hour with Patient Services and being told his name was not even in the system, we got back in the car and drove home.

Once we got home, my father found the piece of newspaper on which he had written his notes with a Sharpie. He could only find one name, Sharon, otherwise there were only phone numbers written in various angles across the newsprint. He called 3 numbers insisting he spoke with someone, but again, he was told they could not find an appointment for him. Finally, I took the phone and asked if he could be seen in the Emergency Room. The answer was, yes, come in anytime.

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Arrival in the night

My relationship with my father goes back my whole life 🙂

We’ve gone through some very difficult times and it’s difficult to understand why he’s here at my house. Maybe it’s because I’m his only child and only living relative in the United States. I don’t know whether he’s telling the truth about why he’s here or fabricating a lie but I do know one thing – he has cancer.

He called me on Monday morning, 4 days before Christmas, just as I was leaving for work and told me he would be coming up in a few hours because he didn’t trust the doctors in Southern CA. By evening he hadn’t arrived and he didn’t call to let us know what was going on. We went to bed and I just assumed it was like it was when I was a kid. He’d tell me he was coming but he’d never show up. I’d sit by the window watching car after car pass by. My mother would tell me that he wasn’t coming but I wouldn’t believe her. Of course, she was right but then I’d get mad at her for telling me while at the same time angry at him for not showing up.

I woke up at 1:30 and looked in the driveway thinking maybe he would drive up and sleep in his car so he wouldn’t wake us, but the driveway was empty. I sat up until about 4:00 AM and checked the driveway again before I got back in bed. Empty.

I crawled back into bed and fell back to sleep just before the alarm went off.

John woke up and went to feed the dog and make coffee. He came back into the room and said, “There’s a car in the driveway.” I took a shower and got dressed and went outside.

I tapped on the window and my father got out of the car. He looked very thin but he was wearing a suit and tie.

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Dinner with the Michelin Guide – Grace’s Table

Grace’s Table, listed on the Michelin Guide, is a lovely spot for locals and visitors alike. The staff is warm and friendly, and ready to make a recommendation because everything on the menu sounds delectable!

Our friend’s, Anthony and Karen selected the location and it was an amazing choice! Grace’s Table is a Top Ten Restaurant for Napa according to USA Today. With the French Laundry as number one, Grace’s Table at number ten is in great company.

We began with the Iron Skillet Cornbread with Lavender Honey Butter. The honey is infused with lavender resulting in a sweet, creamy blend of nectarous flavors that delight. Grace’s Table also servers bread from the Model Bakery. Bread from the Model Baker is always consistent – a chewy crust with a moist interior

Iron Skillet Cornbread

Up next was the Glazed Pork Belly, wine barrel smoked kurabuta belly, served with roasted fig and baguette crostini. The first bite of the pork belly made me close my eyes. All of my senses were focused on that one bite – hot, crisp and filled with wine barrel smoky goodness. I felt like Anton Ego in the movie, Ratatouille, when he took the first bite of Remy’s ratatouille. Except I’ve never had Grace’s Table pork belly before.  It transforms you and your life will never be the same again. It will go on your mental list of memorable food. If you go to Grace’s Table, you MUST order the Glazed Pork Belly!

Glazed Pork Belly

For the salad course we both ordered the Duck Breast special. Cold smoked duck breast with arugula, Niçoise olives, balsamic vinegar drizzle and Reggiano Parmesan.

Roasted Duck Salad

For the mains, I ordered the Roasted Young Chicken, which was Quinoa-wild rice pilaf with winter squash, chestnuts, dried cranberry spiced pumpkin seeds, and a red verjus pan sauce. Let me just say, this was better than any adjective I could find to try and describe it. Crispy skin. It was so crisp you could hear it crunch.

Roasted Young Chicken

John ordered the Southwest Tamale, a Chipotle pulled pork shoulder, green chili, black beans jack cheese, chili lime slaw, cilantro dressing, cascabel chili sauce. It was a spirited take on a familiar dish. The spicy pork with the chili lime slaw was a contrast between the crunchy slaw and the soft, tender masa of the tamale.

Southwest Tamale

Karen ordered the Fillet of Sole, one of the specials, served on a bed of lentils with browned butter and capers. Salty, citrusy, and delectable. The fish was cooked perfectly – moist and tender.

Fillet of Sole

Anthony ordered the item that is highly recommended – the Kabocha Squash Gnocchi. Gnocchi served in a Gorgonzola cream sauce, Bloomsdale spinach and Rose walnuts and Reggiano Parmesan. Tiny gems of pomegranate dotted the plate like rubies.

Kabocha Squash Gnocchi

Each course was better than the last and if the savory dishes were any indication, dessert must be had!

We ordered the Classic Creme Brulee – sugary, golden, crackly topped and smooth creamy goodness beneath. Served in a sweet, heart shaped dish. Enough for two to share!

Classic Creme Brulee

Karen ordered the Old Fashioned Devil’s Food Cake made with Chantilly Cream And Maldon Salt. The frosting was a dark chocolate, luscious ganache. The Maldon Salt was hidden between the layers and when Karen tasted the chocolate and the salt together, she sat back in her chair. It was the perfect combination!

Old Fashioned Devil's Food Cake

We truly enjoyed our visit to Grace’s Table and will go back again!

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A few weeks ago Sandra and Maria joined me for lunch at Pabu. We haven’t had lunch together since I started my new job so we were so happy to see each other. Pabu is located at 101 California Street in San Francisco, right next to my favorite ramen place, the Ramen Bar. Pabu is not listed in the Michelin guide, but I would keep watching and not be surprised if it is in the very near future!

Maria and Sandra

The table setting is lovely. Fresh. Minimalist and clean. I loved the warmth of the wooden tables and the muted green colors of the banquette. The staff was friendly and since it was early we had a few moments to chat as I waited for Sandra and Maria.

Pabu table setting

During the month of August, Pabu has their “Out to Lunch” three course fixed price menu. For the first course, Sandra and I ordered the Ahi Tuna Poke and the Kaiso Seaweed Salad.

Ahi Tuna Poke, Edamame, and Kaiso Seaweed SaladThe Ahi Tuna Poke – poke sauce, tobiko, negi, crisp wonton was delicious. It also had a hint of sesame oil which added to its charm. It was spicy and cool at the same time due to the chili spices in the cold tuna. The sprouts on top added a nice crunch to each bite. A smile moved across my face as I tasted it. The crispy wonton added a nice crunch but I also ate the tuna all by itself. The Poke also reminded both Sandra and I of the cheviche served at La Fusion restaurant a few blocks away.


By this time Maria arrived and even though she arrived well after Sandra and I, the staff was extremely accommodating and served Maria promptly. All three of us ordered the Miso Black Cod – dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso. If our friend, Iris, had been there she would have pronounced the fish cooked perfectly!

Pabu - Miso Black Cod | dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso

The presentation was delicate and beautiful. The lotus looked like lace placed against the moist and flavorful cod.

Pabu - Miso Black Cod | dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso

Lastly, dessert!!! Here is the truth – mine was the BEST! Maria and Sandra ordered the Espresso Pudding – Whiskey caramel, citrus sponge, and vanilla ice cream. They did not seem to like it as much but mine, WOW!!! The Strawberry Parfait – Honey chiffon cake, yuzu mochi, vanilla chantilly cream and masago on the top was so delectable, I would have licked the container if I could have! Of course, I like ANYTHING with mochi in it.

Strawberry Parfait and Espresso Parfait

Lastly, I want to just say that Anthony Kinn is a man of extreme patience and kindness. If all General Managers were as kind as he was to us, the world would be a better place.

Pabu was fun and I would go back just for the dessert!

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Lunch with the Michelin Guide – RN74

Just because it’s Monday, and just because we were in San Francisco for work, and just because this restaurant is on the next block, Christine, the Summer Intern, and I went to RN74.

RN74 stands for Route Nationale 74, which runs directly through the Burgundy region of France. The restaurant is filled with different varieties of wines, listed as though you are traveling on a train. The interior is light and colorful.

RN74 - InteriorThe travel theme works its way through the dining room in the form of little tickets as the napkin ring. RN74 - Ticket on a Napkin

The tables are numbered as though you were in a train car.

RN74 - Numbered tablesA large display of sparkling wines appear as destinations on a board. RN74 - Sparkling Wine List

We were seated and some bread was brought to the table. Not just any bread – chewy crust, a moist and substantial interior, and a wonderful flavor was brought to the table. Served along side was delicious, fresh, unsalted creamery butter with a sprinkle of fleur de sel on top. The fleur de sel added a lovely crunch to each bite of bread.

RN74 - bread and butterDuring the month of July, Michael Mina group restaurants offer a fixed price menu. For $29, you receive a 3-course meal. RN74 - Out to Lunch Summer Menu

Today I ordered the Sweet Corn Soup, the Grilled Mary’s Chicken Paillard, and the Valrhona Chocolate Bouchon.

RN74 - Grilled corn, pickled onion, cilantro and crispy chicharronesThe Sweet Corn Soup is creamy and smooth. Poured over grilled corn, pickled onion, cilantro, and crispy chicharrones, the flavor of fresh summer corn bursts in your mouth and brings a smile to your face. After the first bite, I just had to close my eyes and savor. Sometimes food can leave you breathless. You pause and think about what is happening in your mouth and TASTE the food. You’re no longer eating, all your thoughts are wrapped up in that one delicious bite. As I write this, I still remember the soup. RN74 - Sweet Corn Soup

Grilled Mary’s Chicken Paillard was served with eggplant risotto, guanciale, and arugula panzanella. The chicken was seared in a very hot, cast iron pan resulting in the most crispy skin. It actually crunched! Served with a creamy eggplant risotto flavored with Guanciale (an Italian cured pork cheek) the flavor was a tad bit too salty. The panzanella, with its vinegar flavor, accentuated and sharpened the creamy risotto. Grilled Mary's Chicken PaillardMary’s Chicken is from the Central Valley and is from organically grown, pasture raised chickens. Very sustainable and delicious chicken you can feel good about eating. Well, for me – not so much for the chicken.

Since Christine is new to this “Michelin guide gig”, I told her I usually take a photo of my friend Sandra holding the menu. Christine was happy to comply. Christine and the menu

Christine ordered the Heirloom Tomato Salad. Fresh colorful heirloom tomatoes were quartered, served with smooth fromage blanc, creamy avocado, crisp pickled red onion, sweet basil, and delectable onion crackers. She also ordered the Grilled Mary’s Chicken Paillard, so I won’t waste time describing it all over again except to say she thought it was good, too!

Heirloom Tomato SaladI could not eat all of my meal, so I got a to go box. I love their logo so much I had to take a photo of a perfectly placed sticker on top of the box. Food to go - RN 74

At the end of the meal, our server brought out a small bag, similar to a bag you would receive when buying a bag of coffee. Inside was my little Valrhona Chocolate Bouchon. So, what is a Bouchon? It looks very similar to a brownie. So much so that from now on, when I make brownies, I’m going to call them bouchons.

Actually the term bouchon is defined as:
1. A region in France
2. A cork
3. A chocolate, brownie like cake, named after a region in France, shaped like a cork.

Our server brought out the bill. Lovely. I wish all bills could come like this. Wrapped in lovely red leather.


Since the bouchon was all wrapped up, I didn’t unwrap it to take a picture. I just brought it home. Well, most of it came home. I ate a few bites as it sat on my desk in its little bag calling my name. I brought it home for John. Because I love him.

RN74 was a lovely way to spend a Monday in San Francisco. I would spend almost any day here again and I would for sure order a bowl of the Sweet Corn Soup. Maybe two.

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Lunch with Michelin Guide – The Salt House

The Salt House, located on Mission Street in the South of Market area of San Francisco, is found on a street filled with other great eating establishments.

The Salt House

The Salt House is located in building from the 1890’s (a 1906 earthquake survivor) that housed a printing press. The rustic interior is bright and the atmosphere is lively.

The Salt House

The cuisine is New American and the menu is varied.

The Salt House

Christine, our Summer Intern, and I arrived during the lunch rush but we were seated quickly at the bar, which is always open as is a communal table directly behind.

First up was the Bruce Adams – grapefruit / ginger / lemon / sparkling water. Wow! Refreshing, light and bubbly. Perfect for a hot San Francisco day.

The Salt House

I always have a hard time deciding what to eat and this day was no exception! I asked the server what they recommended and their favorite was the crispy chicken sandwich. Always a good idea to ask the staff what they like, right?

The Salt House

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich is just that – CRISPY! The chicken is served on a poppy seed bun with a spicy green and red cabbage slaw made with a horseradish crème fraîche. Now, I’m not a huge sandwich fan but I at the WHOLE THING! The crispy chicken, crunchy slaw and tender bun was the perfect combination. A little pickle on top and the flavors blended together perfectly. On the side comes the most delightful, crispy, thin, and delicate sweet potato chips. They are so light, they are lighter than a Lay’s potato chip! I ate all those, too!

Christine ordered the Branzino which comes with smashed marble potatoes, baby red chard, and a
shrimp sauce. Branzino is a mild flavored, white fleshed, European fish which that somehow keeps finding it’s way onto San Francisco menus. It’s also served at the Tadich Grill on California Street, so it seems very popular. Christine let me taste a little of the Branzino with the potatoes and it was cooked perfectly.

The Salt House

I asked the server why this place was called The Salt House. We had imagined there might be different varieties of salt available for tasting but there is no real story, apparently. The owners just liked the name.

The Salt House is a nice place for lunch. Next time, I’d like to go back and try some desserts!

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Lunch with the Michelin Guide – Hakkasan San Francisco

Our latest outing for our Michelin Guide was to Hakkasan in San Francisco.

Hakkasan Restaurant - San Francisco

You enter on the lower floor and take the elevator up to the 2nd floor. The elevator opens to a very light and airy entry with a lovely marble table and beautiful orchid displays

Hakkasan entry from the elevator

We were seated upon a beautiful leather banquette with a colorful embroidered dragon with several designs along the banquette.

White Leather Banquette with dragon embroidery

The interior was filled with dark wood but the windows let in some beautiful light.

Hakkasan is light and airy.

The table setting was lovely. Wooden chopsticks and a silver spoon on an ornate holder. Pure simplicity!

Silver spoon and wooden chopsticks

The menu item called “Taste of Hakkasan” is very popular. For $29.00 you can select a Small Eat and a Main. The small eat consists of either the steamed or fried dim sum. There were multiple choices for the main and we all chose something different. All mains are served with braised pak choi and steamed or egg fried rice.

Hakkasan Menu

For our first course, Sandra, Irise and I selected the Steamed Dim Sum.

Steamed Dim Sum Selection

A scallop shu mai, har gau, prawn and Chinese chive dumpling. The scallop shu mai was very tender and the first bite tasted like the briny ocean. A whole scallop wrapped inside a tender dumpling wrapper. The second, Har Gau, was transparent and smooth. According to Wikipedia, this dish is said to be the one that the skill of a dim sum chef is judged on. “Traditionally, har gow should have at least seven and preferably ten or more pleats imprinted on its wrapper. The skin must be thin and translucent, yet be sturdy enough not to break when picked up with chopsticks. It must not stick to the paper, container or the other ha gow in the basket. The shrimp must be cooked well, but not overcooked. The amount of meat should be generous, yet not so much that it cannot be eaten in one bite.” As you can see, there are more than 7 pleats on its wrapper. The last, the Chinese Chive Dumpling was filled with shrimp. Tender shrimp, cooked perfectly, were nestled in the dumpling wrapper.

Winnie selected the Fried Dim Sum. We all were amazed at the beauty of the plate as it was served. Fried Dim Sum Selection

The fried dim sum was comprised of a crispy prawn dumpling, roasted duck and pumpkin puff, and an XO scallop puff. Winnie said all of them were delicious.

Sandra ordered the Spicy Prawn with Lilly Bulb and Almond.

Spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond

The presentation was so beautiful, you almost hated to eat it. It has a spicy curry flavor that was so good with steamed rice.

For the main course, I ordered the French beans with minced pork and dried shrimp. Where ever we go, we always order the green beans.

French beans with minced pork and dried shrimp

Still – our favorite place for green beans is Chung King, in Chinatown.

Irise ordered the Chiu chow Style Sea Bass. Steamed in a clay pot, and served with grape tomatoes, the Sea Bass was cooked perfectly. We each had a bite and agreed with Irise, it was delicious!

Chiu chow Style Sea Bass

Winnie ordered the Stir fry black pepper rib eye beef with Merlot. This was the BEST dish! The beef was so tender and the flavors were delightful.

Main Course

We each were served the pak choi, which was ok. It was a little difficult to eat because of it’s size, but the flavor was fresh.

Braised bok choy

Since we were on our lunch, we had to take our dessert of macarons to go as there was not enough time to eat them before we had to get back to work.

We will come back to Hakkasan. It was a delicious experience!

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