Land Ocean

March 26, 2016 – It was the bottomless Mimosas served at the weekend brunch that got our attention.  How could you not go for that?

So on a Saturday we found ourselves at Land Ocean in Folsom, California.  True to their word, Shelby, the young lady assigned to tend our table, passed by every few minutes to top off our Mimosas.  Along with the warm mini muffins, the Mimosas made for a happy beginning.

Land Ocean is owned by the husband/wife team of Mark and Karoline Platt.  They also own Sienna, a restaurant we visited a few months ago.  (You can find my review of Sienna in the California category.)  It’s an excellent restaurant.

So is Land Ocean.

The décor is dark.  Inviting.  The windows are louvered to let in light but block the heat of summer.  The bottles behind the bar are lit with colored lights giving them a circus-like appearance.  The bar looks like fun.

The staff is friendly and efficient.  Sean Doherty, the manager on duty, stopped by our table to say hello.  He’s a recent arrival in the Folsom area.  His enthusiasm for both his new home and the restaurant placed in his care are a pleasure to witness.

My wife is a devoted carnivore.  She ordered the bistro steak from the lunch menu.  A small steak marinated in a red wine sauce, served with Yukon gold smashed potatoes, cherry tomatoes and asparagus. Simple.  She found it to be pleasing.

Breakfast is my favorite meal.  While I’m quite adventurous, willing to try most anything at lunch or dinner, I tend to be rather boring with my breakfast orders.  Two eggs, over easy with bacon, pork link sausage or ham.  If chicken-fried steak is on the menu, I can’t  resist it.  Yeah, I’m in a breakfast rut.

Today, however, was brunch.  Which is sort of like breakfast only with lunch offered as an option.  I decided today I was going to stay with breakfast but get out of my rut.

Land Ocean didn’t make it easy.  There it was.  Right there on the menu.  They call it country fried steak.  But I know what it is.  And I was tempted.  I fought it.  I struggled.

I won!

I ordered the Italian sausage frittata.  Like me, it, too, was a winner.   While it was more like scrambled eggs than a frittata, it was worth taking the risk of abandoning my tried and true favorite.  The eggs, mixed with nuggets of fennel-spiced Italian sausage and sweet red pepper, covered with melted Gruyere and Cheddar cheese, rested on a bed of country potatoes.  In yet another nod to fusion, the plate was accompanied by a small container of sausage gravy.  Nice.  Very nice!

There are several more dishes on the Land Ocean brunch menu I’d like to try when we go back.  Perhaps the chilaquiles (eggs with chorizo and black beans) or crab cake Benedict.  Both sound inviting.

And there’s the country fried steak.  It’ll always be there for me.

 

 

 

Garlic Basting Sauce for Chicken

March 20, 2016 – It was the most beautiful chicken I ever took from an oven.  Perfectly browned.  Juicy.  Delicious.

I credit the basting sauce.  It’s a sauce for garlic lovers.  If you’re not one of those you won’t be enthusiastic.  If you’re on the fence about garlic, be assured that while the taste of the aromatic little bulbs clearly comes through, it does so mildly.

Did I mention how simple this dish is to prepare?  The sauce took less than five minutes.  The chicken sat meekly in the oven for about an hour and a half.  Basted every half hour.  That’s it.  Doesn’t get easier.

You can use soy sauce as the base if you wish.  If that’s your choice I’d add a little sugar.

I chose to use coconut aminos rather than soy sauce.  Coconut aminos is the sap of the coconut tree.  It’s similar to soy sauce in taste though the coconut aminos has a slight sweetness.  It’s said to be high in everything good and low in everything bad.  I used it in this recipe at the request of my health-conscious wife.

Garlic Basting Sauce for Chicken

4-5 garlic cloves,  finely minced

6 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)

3 tablespoons olive oil

A pinch of cayenne

Salt & pepper to taste

(If you choose to use soy sauce, add a pinch of sugar)

Preheat the oven to 450.

Mix the garlic, coconut aminos, olive oil and cayenne well.

Baste the chicken thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Lower the heat to 350.  It should cook for 20 minutes per pound, including the first 15 minutes at high heat.

Baste every half an hour.

Bon temps!

 

 

Placerville

March 19, 2016 – It was called Hangtown.  Not a name that conjures up the image of an idyllic rural community.

For a time back in the 1850s, it earned its name.  A series outlaws were hanged from the limbs of a large oak tree that grew in the center of town.  Officers of the court were few in those days.  With or without their presence, justice could be swift.  Commission of the crime, arrest, trial and execution of the sentence might be carried out the same day.  Efficient.

Actually the original name of the community that grew up to support the miners after gold was discovered eight miles down the road in 1848 was Dry Diggings.  But then that doesn’t exactly project optimism either.

City fathers finally settled on the name Placerville when a post office was opened.  It seemed a more civilized, even welcoming, name for a rapidly growing community on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada foothills.  And Placerville fared well.  For a while it was the third largest community in California.  Now it’s a pleasant small town of about 10,000 people.

Placerville prospered in those days.  A few miners did well.  As in most of the gold rushes around the country, it was more often the merchants who amassed the greater fortunes.  Men like Levi Strauss, who came to Placerville in 1873 to open a dry goods store.  He struck it rich when he and a partner patented a process of using brass rivets to reinforce the seams of heavy duty work pants.  .

And John Studebaker, who took the $8,000 he made building wheelbarrows for the miners back to Indiana where he and his brothers made wagons.  In 1902 his son in law convinced him to build electric cars.  They switched to gasoline-powered vehicles two years later.

Studebaker remained very conservative in his views.  He even urged consumers to be cautious in buying his cars.  “The automobile has come to stay,” he said.  “But when a man has no business it is a rather expensive luxury and I would advise no man…to buy one until he has sufficient income to keep it up.  A horse and buggy will afford a great deal of enjoyment.”

Nonetheless, for the next half century the Studebakers did very well.  And it all started in Placerville.

Among the most clever and innovative were a couple of fellows named Fountain and Tallman.  The water in the local creeks was becoming fouled by the mining activities.  Fountain and Tallman put up a building beside a natural spring.  They used steam powered 1852 technology to carbonate the water, sometimes flavor it and bottle it.  Fountain and Tallman were proved even more far-sighted when their building, constructed of stone and brick, was one of the few in Placerville that remained standing after the two fires that wiped out most of the town.

Today’s Placerville is one of those quaint communities with lots of history that are so much fun to explore.  You never know what you’ll find.

You might want to climb aboard the 1850s stagecoach and go bouncing through the old town.

Or check out the 1857 Cary Hotel, where all the rooms are furnished with antique and period furniture.  And for the adventurous there are rooms on the second floor where the hotel’s “always friendly spirits” might make themselves known.

We also happened on a bit of culinary history.  The Original Mel’s Diner.  Opened in 1947, Mel’s lays claim to being the inspiration for both the ’70s television show Aliceand the classic movie American Graffiti.

I love diners so there was no way we were passing that up.  I ordered the Hangover II, even though I wasn’t.  It was the largest plate of food I have ever had placed in front of me.  Ever!

A bed of Mel’s potatoes, covered with a couple of biscuits, decorated with bacon, sausage and a slice of ham.  The whole covered with gravy and topped with three fried eggs.  It was diner heaven.

I ate as much as I could.  We boxed the rest of it and took it home with us.  There was enough for two people for dinner last night.  I finally finished the last of the potatoes with a couple of fried eggs for Sunday morning breakfast.

We’ll be going back to Placerville.  There’s a winery we want to visit.  And there’s no way my wife can pass on a hotel with “friendly spirits!”

We’ll probably find other things we want to explore on our next visit.  It’s that kind of town.

Broccoli Sesame Sauce for Salmon

February 27, 2016 –  Every now and then the Alaskan in me craves salmon.  I grew up eating salmon.  It’s not only delicious but brings back fond memories of fishing with my dad.  I can remember the two of us in hip boots fishing Bird Creek a few miles south of Anchorage.  We were the only two on the creek.  These days there’s a camp ground and parking lot.  And hard to find a spot to fish the creek.

Few foods are more delicious than fresh salmon.  Of the major varieties sockeye, or red salmon, is the best.  It’s so delicious that restaurants across the country await the first reds of the season.  Alaska Airlines has even lent its marketing expertise by flying the first catch directly to Seattle with plenty of accompanying publicity.

A whole lot of hoopla!  Fresh red salmon is worth it.

Let me assert one of my unbreakable principles here.  I will not ever, knowingly, eat farmed salmon.  And God forbid the recently created GMO (or as we call it, Frankenfish)  somehow touches my plate.  It’s wild caught, preferably Alaskan, or no salmon at all.

When it comes to cooking salmon, the rule is “keep it simple.”  There’s so much flavor in a salmon filet it doesn’t need a lot of help.  A little salt and pepper.  A few pats of butter.  Put it in the oven at 350 – 400.  Cook for four minutes per half inch.  Watch it closely.  When it flakes easily and is still moist, get it out of the oven.  You don’t want to over cook it.

I wanted a sauce of some sort to accompany my salmon.  Not strong enough to overpower the wonderful flavor.  Something to complement it.  To bring out even more of the goodness.

I decided to use the wok to stir fry some broccoli flowerets.  A little soy sauce, I thought.  Maybe some sesame oil.  A bit of olive oil and maybe a touch of chicken stock.  Perhaps a pinch of sugar

As a favor to my wife I substituted coconut aminos for the soy sauce.  Its flavor is similar to soy sauce but is slightly sweet.  It’s also gluten free.   If you opt for the coconut aminos rather soy sauce, don’t add any sugar.

Here’s the sauce I came up with.

Broccoli Sesame Sauce for Salmon

3 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)                                                                  2 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil                                                                                             1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil                                                                                                 3 tablespoons chicken stock                                                                                               1 head broccoli, broken into flowerets

Whisk the first four ingredients until well combined.  Heat the sauce in a wok over medium high heat until it’s hot but not smoking.

Add the broccoli flowerets and stir fry until they begin to brown.  About three to five minutes.

Serve with baked salmon and perhaps a side of rice.

Bon temps!