Date Night at Mill Valley Beerworks – Alice Waters in the House

 

Tonight my husband and went to Mill Valley Beerworks for dinner.  We’ve been to Beerworks brewery a few times for beer and a few bar bites, but they’ve remodeled, and expanded and now have a full dining menu.  Most of the tables are long and communal for sharing and gathering with friends.  We opted instead for seats at the bar.  At first I was disturbed not to see my favorite pork sliders and soft pretzels on the menu.  However I was pleasantly surprised by the new menu and food.  It was bright and fresh and simple, yet sophisticated.  I’m not a big beer drinker but I had a nice Hogan Dry Apple Cider, which went well with the food.  We shared a few small plates such as peas with mint, fava toast (fava bean paste on a baguette with a citrusy  salad of herbs), cucumber and beets with creme fraiche, and 23 minute roasted potatoes (not sure on the name, luckily we didn’t wait that long).  Only one dish missed for us – a tuna pappardelle on the large plate section.  Pasta was a bit heavy and rubbery and heavily seasoned with parsley.  After one bite it went untouched, and the waiter credited our bill.  We finished with a lovely fig and ricotta dessert with a drizzle of honey.  There was a small tea cake on the side (really just a bite), that I could’ve eaten a dozen of at least.

 

According to the bartender, Beerworks is planning to open for lunch soon and bring back some of the former bar bites, such as sandwiches and salads.  I’m happy to  have another lunch and dinner dining option in Marin county and especially in Mill Valley that creates and supports local, seasonal food.  All in all it was a really nice, local date night.  A surprise from the beer pub we were expecting, but more interesting and sophisticated than prior.  Beerworks is noted for it’s handcrafted beer and other hundreds of international beer choices.  However we saw more wine being served with the new fare than beer.  Certainly a new destination for both beer snobs and foodies….

 

Speaking of which we saw Alice Waters dining at one of the communal tables.  I just had to share that.  Hope we’ll be able to get a table again soon.

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Thank You Ms. Waters

Portrait for National Gallery

As many of you know last weekend was the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA.  It is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.  Of course Chez Panisse was and is more than a restaurant.  It’s a place where a true pioneer Alice Waters, discovered and shared with Berkeley, California, and America about how simple slow cooking made with fresh ingredients grown locally, right out of the garden, benefits everyone and tastes best.  It seems so easy and obvious now, but not then.  Of course during the last 40 years Chez Panisse has been a spring board for not only a healthy eating philosophy but a spring board for hundreds of chefs and new restaurants.

Then of course there’s the Edible Schoolyard Project.  Where Ms. Waters planted a garden in Martin Luther King Middle School and turned it into a classroom (and now dining hall) for kids to learn about food, growing, cooking and community.  It has become a national and international model and curriculum for schools all over the world.

I can’t say enough about what she’s done and continues to do.  Neither can the National Gallery as her portrait (see above) will go there after being on display in Berkeley.  I got to see the portrait and experience what she’s built with the Edible Schoolyard Project last Saturday with my family as we attended the OpenEducation event where the Berkeley Art Museum was transformed into an open classroom and living kitchen.  There was a variety of “school” projects to highlight to the public what goes on in garden classrooms around the country thanks to Ms. Waters programs.  My family enjoyed fudge made from goat’s milk and saw the responsible goats.  My kids made a jar of pickles and tortillas.  We brought home seed bombs and lettuces.  We saw grain being ground by a bicycle.  And saw 5,000 honey bees in action.  It was a wonderful day to celebrate food, community and the power of teaching.  I was, and am, quite inspired.  Thank you Ms. Waters and Happy Birthday Chez Panisse!

Open Education Event
the bees
the goats
grinding grain with a bicycle

 

making pickles
making tortillas
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I met Alice Waters… (with Toasted Breadcrumbs Recipe)

lisa-alice.jpg

From Lisa Barnes

I was surprised to see Alice Waters was going to be signing her new book The Art of Simple Food, in Corte Madera at Cost Plus. First, authors usually do signings in San Francisco vs. Marin. Second, Cost Plus isn’t my first choice when buying a cookbook. None the less, I was curious and wanted in. I certainly think of myself as a fan. Not just for her revolution in bringing awareness to fresh, organic foods and of course delicious restaurant menu offerings. But more for her passion for seasonal food, fostering community, educating children, and overall environmental stewardship.

A few years ago I visited Martin Luther King Middle School where the birth of the Edible Schoolyard began. I was so impressed that this author and chef, along with a school principal cared enough to create this amazing garden and kitchen classroom. I wished I were back in middle school, or at least could have my own children experience this unique program. Kids were doing it all: composting, digging, picking, weeding, watching, cooking, prepping, smelling, touching, tasting. But mostly enjoying and learning.

For the book signing, I wasn’t sure how early to show up. I remember lining up for over an hour to see Jamie Oliver (he was really late) at Sur La Table in S.F. a few years ago. Unfortunately I finally had to give up, since my new baby woke up and didn’t want to be in a cooking store. Another time I was hoping to buy a cake pan in Williams-Sonoma and found a line around the block in Corte Madera. I wondered about all the fuss and discovered Rachel Ray was there signing her latest book. What a crowd! Mostly women trying to get a glimpse, signature and photo.

I decided to arrive at the Cost Plus store 30 minutes prior to the signing time and was surprised to see I was 3rd in line. Where was everyone? As the time grew near more people came, but I still thought there should be more. I overheard some saying they didn’t cook, but thought the book would make a good Christmas gift for a friend/reletive that did enjoy cooking. I wasn’t there for a gift, I was treating myself. In addition to buying her book and wanting to meet her, I also gave her my book. I just wanted to share with her that I too was a believer in healthy and fresh children’s food, and thank her for leading the way.

She was very kind and even interested in my writings and classes and asked “Has it been difficult?” The answer was “Yes, at first (7 years ago when I started). But now the practices of organic and sustainable foods (and lifestyle) are much more mainstream and thankfully there’s not as much of a need to convince parents of the value of making such choices when feeding children.” I think Alice Waters and others such as Jamie Oliver, have and continue to bring awareness to parents and schools about the state of cafeteria offerings, childhood obesity and diseases – and I thank them for that. You’ll see I couldn’t stop myself from handing my camera to a shopper and asking her to get a photo (above).

Ms. Water’s new book would be welcome in anyone’s kitchen library. I will refer to it many times, I’m sure. More interesting than the recipes I think are the thoughtful comments and information about ingredients as well as cooking techniques. I’ve included her recipe for toasted bread crumbs below. On the page facing this recipe is an entire page about breadcrumbs and why and how to choose the bread, various uses for breadcrumbs and texture differences. It’s informative, yet simple to do and that’s the point. “From scratch” doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated.

Toasted Breadcrumbs
(from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, pg. 63)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pare away all the crust from:
Levain or other country-style bread

Cut the bread into cubes and process in a blender or food processor until the crumbs reach the fineness you want.

Toss with:
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil for every cup of breadcrumbs

Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet in a thin layer. Bake until golden brown, stirring the crumbs every few minutes for even browning.

Variations

Fry a handful of herbs in hot olive oil over medium heat until crisp. Drain well and toss together with the toasted crumbs and a pinch of salt, if needed.

A few dried chile flakes can be mixed into the crumbs for spice.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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