Project Leftovers: Marzano’s Meatball & Swiss Chard – Part 1

On my last post, I asked you what do you do with your leftovers, and vote.

Mine is definitely re-purpose leftover into different dishes, and sometimes eat is as it is/reheated.

Recently, my husband and I went to Marzano on College Avenue in Oakland.  They have fabulous happy hour starting from 10 pm.  We normally do not eat that late, but on that Friday, I had a meeting in San Francisco at night (without food!  ugggh!) and by the time we got back in Oakland, we were starving!   Since it was already 9:30, we decided to wait and take advantage of their happy hour.

I know no one else does that, but we tend to order way too much when we are hungry.   Their happy hour is great — $6 for various appetizers and salads and $10 for 5 kinds of fire-roasted pizza.   We presumed, “OK, the price is low, so the portion will be small.”   Plus I love varieties, so we decided to go for Fritto Misto, Grilled Sardines, Fire-roasted Meatballs and Swiss Chard, and Quatro Fromaggio Pizza with oyster mushrooms.

When we got the Fritto Misto, we were shocked. It’s HUGE!

Then Sardines.  There were three of them, and were pretty big, each about 5 – 6 inches long.

By now we were already getting full.  It’s almost 10:30!  And in the cazuela, a Spanish clay dish for tapas, my meatball comes.  Big, golf-ball size, and there are 3 of them!  The bad news is that my husband doesn’t eat read meat, so I’m responsible for all three.

Pizza was amazing, and it’s at least 12 inches!  We stuffed ourselves, but end up coming home with one half of this pizza and half of the meatball dish.

YES…  the picture you saw is actually my leftover meatballs taken the next day, because I didn’t have a camera at the restaurant.

Would you like to take a guess, what do you think I did with these leftovers?  I dropped a hint at the beginning.  I love re-purposing leftovers, so they were re-purposed.

I’ll tell you the answer on my next post.  So stay tuned!
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Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver Pan and Mix Review & Starter-Kit Give Away


Thank you so much for your comments on what do you think the pan is for, and what would you fill in these…
I was amazed by your creativity, and all the possibilities the pan offers.  Your answers certainly made me (and many others) very hungry… 

The answer is….  As quite a few of you guessed, Aebleskiver pan!   

You may ask “What is Aebleskiver?”  Aebleskiver are Danish round pancakes that are often eaten before Christmas. (<- Click here for Wikipedia definition of Aebleskiver.) 

As some of you may remember from my post of FoodBuzz Blogger Festival in November, the guy in the red outfit, living somewhere very cold up North sent the pan and mix around Thanksgiving as early Christmas presents.  This is one of the perks as a Featured Publisher at FoodBuzz.  I get to try many cool things and restaurants and write about it. 

This is my Skiver Santa, Chad Gillard from Aunt Else’s in Minnesota.  


I’ve been having fun with this every weekend, which I call Skiver Saturday or Skiver Sunday.  The best part is, these Aebleskivers are great not only for traditional apple slices, but with almost anything.  As you know, I love varieties and experimenting!  That’s why you may have already seen a few photos of them with many different things on top on Facebook, etc.  I never get bored.  And now I have even more ideas, thanks to you, I will be able to have fun with it for a very very long time! 

When I’m at home, these are the things I gather on typical weekend.   

Gorgonzola cheese, cheddar, chicken, sliced turkey, shrimp, cramberry apple batter, sauteed mirepoix and sauteed leeks. And of course one each of apple, banana and nutella.   


When we tried this first at our friends over Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to bother our friends with their computer password, I wanted to try so bad, I didn’t watch the video on AuntElse Website, they stuck really badly, and some of the got burnt as well.  Since then, My Skiver Santa has given me a pointer from the Northern land, so I now heat the pan for 10-15 min at low-medium heat as soon as I wake up.    

As soon as we pour the batter, it puffs up pretty quickly, so I put all these fun and different fillings in each well. Can you tell I pefer savory food to sweets, and lots of varieties?   


The trick is to:   

1. Season the pan well in advance, and use enough oil.   

2. Heat the pan at medium low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until hot. (Set the timer and prepare the filling during that time. If you still have time, watch the video one more time, and learn how to turn.)   

3. Aunt Else mix puffs up a lot quickly.  I recommend pouring about 2 TBS batter in each well, starting from the four corners, then middle four, and the very center well at the end.   

4. After adding the filling, if it doesn’t come up to the rim, add a little more. (The amount on the photo is a bit on the generous side, especially on the top row.  In my opinion,i t’s easier to turn if there’s no batter going outside of the well.)   

5. For perfectly round skivers, do the quarter turns as in the video. If you try to flip the entire thing 180 degrees, you’ll end up with half dome shaped skivers. : (   

It’s really important to pull the skivers UP 90 degrees, then they release itself like a magic!   Before I was trying to separate the balls from the wall, and that made them stick toghether more.  Every minutes or so, I pull them up another 90 degrees, and when you are finished with all four turns, you will have a perfectly round Aebleskivers!   


Just like these!   


Look at all these different fillings!  So much fun!   


Our favorites were:   

  • Trader Joe’s Cranberry Apple Butter 
  • Gruyere Cheese 
  • Apple slices  
  • Caramelized onion and gruyere cheese (Like French Onion soup) 

Sounds strange but defintely my favorite:   

  • Green onions, drops of Kikkoman soy sauce, and gruyere as filling, home-made mayonnaise on top (below).  I also tried Japanese takoyaki or okonomiyaki style with green onion and cabbage mixed into batter (I made more traditional Japanese style batter for this instead of AuntElse’s Aebleskiver mix for this) with seafood etc in it.  That was quite delicious as well. 

Aebleskivers are very similar to pancakes or crepes, so you can fill with anything you’d wrap with your crepes.  With so many options, this can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert.  I told you, I love things that can be flexible and optimized.  I like the fact that you can have so much fun making it too.  This definitely passed my test!  Next time, I’ll try sauteed mushrooms, seafood with cream sauce etc. (Use leftovers, since you need so little.)  My husband thought I’m weird, but I’m contemplating using a meatball or quail egg as well.  You know, just like a Scotch Egg!  Will see.   

In terms of savory or sweet question, I found Aunt Else’s mix very versatile, it works for both…  just like a good crepe batter!  You can certainly add more sugar or salt if that’s what you prefer, but I found it just right.  

If you like it sweet, my guess is Japanese anko — sweet red bean paste will be great in Aebleskiver.  We have similar street snacks called Tai-yaki (Tai Snapper shaped pancake sandwich with anko in it) and Dora-yaki (two round pancakes filled with anko), and Imagawa-yaki (Flattened version of Aebleskiver?)  Click each link to see the photos to see the difference.   


For 2 of us, we just do one batch (1/2 of the amount of the smallest batch measurement on the back of the bag), and that’s plenty for brunch.  All you need per batch is one egg, 1 cup of water, and a scant cup of Aunt Else’s mix, which is made of organic whole wheat flour.  Even though you don’t have to whip up the egg white like some other Aebleskiver mix, it’s perfectly fluff.  It works great for both savory and sweet fillings.  It’s really fun activity especially with kids (of all ages).   

So in our household, Saturdays and Sundays are Skiver Days!     

Can I tell you a funny story about this?  

In my determination to not to break that new tradition, and my desire to share this fun activity with our niece and nephew, I even dragged that heavy cast iron Aebleskiver pan from the Bay Area to Milwaukee for our Christmas visit.  The problem is, the suitcase that had our pan in it decided to spend some time in warmer climate, and ended up in El Paso, TX.  The good news is, after spending 2 days of us worrying about the whereabouts of my favorite new toy/kitchen tool, our luggage was found at the snowing, fridged door steps of my in-laws. (Geez, guys!   It has something very VALUABLE!)  Well, this is surburban Milwaukee, not Oakland, CA.  Fridged means there’s no one hanging out to steal it.  Plus, these people are very friendly and nice, they often don’t even lock their door!   

Anyway, I found this note in our luggage… and the box we had the skiver pan was opened, and searched… These curious inspectors might have even made a few batches of Aebleskivers…  Who knows?  Well, it was the same day (Christmas day) when they had the fire scare in the plane, so I consider it a good thing.   


When we were in Milwaukee, we only tried some apples, pears, bananas with powdered sugar, apple sauce, and some cranberry sauce. Everyone loved them, kids, grandparents and adults.  I guess they realized that I too could make some sweet, more traditional dishes. (I am known to suggest something “weird” like new vegetables, flavors, or spices (Japanese food anyone?) to cook during our holiday visits in my attempt to add variety to casseroles — their kind of Christmas meals.)  

Thank you, my Skiver Santa, Chad Gillard from Aunt Else’s!  With this, everyday (OK, weekend) is like Christmas! 

Oh…  Our generous Skiver Santa wants YOU to have fun with your own Skiver set.  One lucky reader will get an Aunt Else Aebleskiver Starter Kit (both pan and the mix)!    

He also want you to learn more about Aebleskivers and ask questions.  So I am hosting a phone interview with Chad Gillard (aka Skiver Santa), the President of Aunt Else’s Aebleskivers and you are invited!  Don’t miss this unique opportunity. Invite your friends and family too.

All the details will be posted next week, including how to increase the chance of winning. (Wouldn’t you be most curious about this?  I would!)  Make sure to subscribe to Secrets of the Kitchen Wizard by email (sidebar, scroll down just a bit), so that you will be the first one to know.

 In the mean time, please write to our “Skiver Santa” at C.O.mment Box of this post about:

1. What you may want to do with the Skiver Starter Kit? 

2. Why you should be the one to win the kit? 

Again, one comment counts as one point.  Come up as many ideas and keep posting comments. You are welcome to go back to these 2 posts about  1. Aebleskiver pan , and 2. filling, and post more ideas.  

Santa is watching….

Good luck and have a great weekend! 



The Versatile World of Miso: Fancy Food Show, Miso and Natto Event Recap

As one of the major gastronomic capitals of the world, San Francisco hosts many food related events.

On Monday, I was invited as a guest to the educational seminar on “Miso and Natto: The Two Up and Coming Food from Japan” at Fancy Food Show at Moscone Center  sponsored by  JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization).  My friend Nobuko works for them, and she wanted me to write about it on my blog.

I’d love to!  It’s easy to convince me with good food.  And of course, I was curious about how they are positioning miso and (especially) natto, which is not known as the Japanese food most loved by non-Japanese…, yet.

This post features miso, which is very versatile, gaining popularity, and more readily available than its cousin, natto.  He’s a little more eccentric (it’s fermented, so quite sticky, and pungent), so I’ll save that post for later.   

Most non-Japanese knows miso because of popularity of miso-soup.  Many even call them just “miso”, and ask me “how do you make miso?” 

As represented in that question, many don’t know they can use miso much more than in miso-soup alone, and also can make hundreds of variety of miso soup using what they have in their fridge!  Making miso soup at home is very easy, and much cheaper and often tastier than these cups you pay at some of the Japanese restaurant for $3 or more per serving, or freeze-dried version at the store.

Plus evidence in Japan points to many health benefits such as relieving fatigue, reducing cholesterol, improving intestinal function and digestion, anti-aging, diminishing signs of aging skin, and even reducing the risk of cancer. 

The miso part was presented by Ema Koeda, Chef and Food & Wine Specialist.  She introduced the audience to the versatile world of miso and its health benefits with some Powerpoint presentation with mouth-watering photos. (For more information about miso, click here.) 

she demonstrated one dish which was delicious, super easy, and something everyone loves and are familiar with! 

Yes, you guessed it right.  The first photo you saw…  Japanese Miso Burger. If someone is thinking about start making miso soup at home, but don’t know what to do with the rest of the miso, start with this.  This is a perfect recipe to experience the versatility of miso, and what it can do for you in your kitchen.  Then start experimenting with adding in this and that as a secret ingredient. Soon you’ll be known as a great cook!

The amount of miso used in this burger is perfect…  not to little, not too much, and adds a lot of umami and depth of flavor and savoriness, anyone will love it.  I particularly loved the topping of scallions, and miso ketchup! 

Sendai miso called in the recipe will be hard to find, so simply look for yellow or red miso.  If you are using ground chicken, she suggested that white miso will work nicely.  Most large supermarkets (Asian Food section), health food stores, and gourmet markets sell basic miso pastes.  I recommend the Japanese kind, rather than American version for more authentic taste and ingredients.  If you want speciality miso, such as Sendai miso, call the Japanese market in your area.

Japanese Miso Burger By Ema Koeda


  • 3/4 lbs Ground beef
  • 1/2 Onion, minced
  • 1 Large egg, beaten
  • 4 TBS Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) 
  • 3 TBS Sendai Miso (or red or yellow miso)
  • 1 stick, long scallion, julienned and put in cold water
  • 4 burger buns
  • 3 oz ketchup
  • 1 TBS Sendai miso (or red or yellow)
  • 1 TBS walnuts, crushed
  • 3 TBS shallots, minced


  1. Preheat oven at 350 F. (At the event, she simply fried the burgers in the skillet as shown in the photo above.)
  2. Combine beef, onion, egg, panko and miso in a large bowl till well combined, for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Shape meat into patties a bit smaller than the size of buns, approximately 3.5 oz.
  4. Grill patties on medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side and cool.
  5. Combine ketchup, crumbled walnuts, miso and shallots for the sauce.
  6. Warm the buns in the oven, place the patty, ketchup, scallions and top the bun to cover.

Serves four.

The second dish Japanese Misoyaki Butterfish with Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette demonstrated by Jeff Hubbard, Chef Partner at Roy’s in San Francisco was impressive yet probably may not be the first one to try at home for the most people.  It’s mainly because you have to marinate the fish for 24 hours, requires 3 cups each of sake and mirin and 8 oz of miso, plus how the vinaigrette is made (see that fire!)…  It’s time-consuming and expensive, especially if you choose to follow the recipe exactly.  Watching a young, good-looking chef playing with fire was fun, but this is a type of food you may want to try at the restaurant….  He’ll understand, and probably love you for it : )

Using a lot more miso (8 oz for four 7 oz piece fish!) , and long marinating, it has much stronger miso taste than Ema’s burger recipe, which can be even loved by “miso-beginners”.  

I’ll be honest.  I normally do not like misoyaki.  Whether it’s fish or meat.  It’s probably because my dad used to get this miso-marinated Kobe beef for Oseibo gift giving season every year (or maybe for Ochugen in summer too!) from one of his patients.  The miso flavor was too overpowering, plus my mom cried (I’m serious) each time I didn’t want to eat something, so maybe I have bad memories. I begged my parents to let the person know that we appreciated it, but we prefer plain Kobe beef, but Mom’s answer was no.  It’s too rude.  So she lied every year when she called and thank the giver with “It’s our FAVORITE!  All four of us look forward to this special gift every year!”.  So the poor guy believed her and spent a fortune on something we were actually giving away year after year.  

Sorry, I got side tracked.  The kind of fish used for misoyaki is ALWAYS fatty fish, which I don’t care for.  Having said that, it’s my personal preference.  Many people love them, including lots of Americans I know.

What I liked about this particular version was Jeff (or Roy Yamaguchi himself, whoever developed the original recipe) uses soy vinaigrette with a lot of refreshing vegetables such as onions, daikon and tomatoes along with rice wine vinegar and lemon juice to cut the oiliness.  It’s also great way to incorporate more vegetables into our diet.

I won’t do the fire part so that so that don’t have to deal with the smoke in the house afterwards, but maybe I’ll come up with a short-cut and cheaper version of this with less oily fish.  Maybe it will convert me.  Or just make the vinaigrette.  It should be great with chicken, beef, salmon, and many different things.

It’s really nice to see more and more people are becoming intersted in Japanese ingredients and food beyond sushi and teriyaki because it’s not only tasty but healthy as well. It adds more flavor easily without adding extra sodium or fat. (Miso itself is salty, so be easy on salt if you are adding it as “secret ingredients”.) 

This event inspired me to experiment more with miso.  Just like Ema showed us, adding these Japanese ingredients to familiar dishe is a great way to start. Even though I’ve been using miso as secret ingredients here and there, it’d be fun to see how miso would enhance things like clam chowder!  I’ll report on it here as I experiment, so stay tuned!

Are you planning to incorporate miso into your kitchen?  If so, what will you experiment with?

Thanks for inviting me, Nobuko!

My friend Nobuko from JETRO (in special “Miso Apron” I want it!) and Eriko from Tofu-Life  in Benecia.

Tyler Florence “Cooking Demo and Book Signing at Macy’s” Report

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I went to see my idol, celebrity chef, Tyler Florence at Macy’s Cellar at Union Square last night.

I’ve been a big Tyler fan for many years, since Food 911.  Given he moved to the Bay Area recently, I jumped at the opportunity to go see him in person.  And of course, sample some of his food! (Surprise!)

Tyler Florence’s genuine passion about food and willingness to share that is so refreshing. I knew that from his shows on Food TV, yet in this type of setting, it’s not edited. It’s real and more intimate. He’ a true educator and great marketer, I have to say. He’s so passionate about his food, cookware, various projects he’s doing, before you know it, you are convinced — big time. 

Before walking into Macy’s I swore to myself that I would NOT buy ANYthing, because I have hundreds of cookbooks and more than enough cookware in our small kitchen in our small house. If I did, my husband would kill me. Plus our budgets are tight this season. 

Well, before Tyler’s charm, especially right in front of me, that was no avail. He was asking the audience what they are cooking for Christmas, and freely giving advice.  
And his enthusiasm and excitement about his cookware easily convinced me to try this beautiful and flexible cookware that are light for its quality.  It’s optimized! I love anything optimized! This will optimize my cooking effort even more! Plus, he’s concerned about MY wrist when handling heavy pans, and developed cookware that are not too heavy. What a nice guy! (And may I add that he was smart enough to tell us to just to lift it up the sample pans as he closes the show.)

So, here’s the Video #1 Tyler explaining his cookware (About the heat resistent handles, oven-safe to 500F, etc.

Note: I was multi-tasking, trying to shoot a video, taking photo, and write notes at the same time. So they are a bit shaky. 

Video #2 Tyler explaining about his cookware, this one is about the weight and heat conductivity.

After that, food time!

He made three amazing dishes for us.  No meat dish, two seafood dishes and one vegetarian. They were all hearty, you feel you could cut meat from your diet completely, even in winter.

The first dish was Halibut with Buttered Turnip Puree, Beluga Lentils.

Aaahhhh, it was delicious. Halibut is my favorite fish to start with, yet with turnips and lentils with fennel (another favorite of mine)…  It was like match made in heaven!  I was so jealous of people who got to eat the fresh one made by Tyler.  Given my husband couldn’t make it, I need to make this at home soon.

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Video of Tyler plating the dish.

Then Crispy Calamari with smoked herb salt. His shared his secret is to use 3:1 flour and corn starch to keep the crispness, and use soda water. It was, indeed crispy, and I could have a lot more!

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The third was a beautiful vegetarian dish.  Ricotta Gnocchi with Chantrelle Mushrooms, Cavalo Nero (Black Cabbage) and Vera Fuso. (<– this spelling could be wrong. Basically, a sauce made of leftover pasta water.

The gnocchi were sautéed directly in the skillet, and looked super easy. It would be even better, when it’s hot (To save time to feed everyone, all the food was made in advance by the staff.) So I’d definitely make them later, and experiment with this leftover pasta water sauce for sure.

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Even just looking at these photos makes me hungry!

We also got a surprised visit by his son Hayden and wife Tolan. He even showed us how to cook by “Stirring the pot”.  What a cute family!

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So did I buy anything, you may ask.

YES… As Tyler suggested, I lifted up a beautiful wok on the display.  It was actually light, and its graceful line and beautiful shine (and Tyler’s comments, of course) convinced me that this will make a better fried rice. I have had 2 woks since I came to the US, but for some reason, I just can’t make decent fried rice any more, even though I was able to in Japan. My NEED to experiment and prove that I can again, forced me to put the credit card down at the cashier…  Oh well…  Because of that purchase, I got to talk with him in person and take a photo. So it was totally worth it!

Plus, I know if I make good dishes with it, my husband will forgive me.

And of course, count on me for a post or two when I make these dishes. (Can’t guarantee if it’s exactly the same, because we didn’t get detailed recipe, plus I couldn’t see too well, but it’d be still fun!)

So who’s your favorite celebrity chef, and why do you like him/her?  Leave me a comment!

Like Tyler signed on my book, Keep on Cooking!

PS: If you want to find out an event like this, become a fan of Kitchen Wizard on Facebook. I post these events notifications on it.

Our Tuna and Crab Feast to Remember…

Have you had a chance to taste fresh tuna just cut in front of your eyes? 

As you’ve read (and seen on photos and videos) on my last post, I finally got that opportunity I dreamed about for decades. 

It was just amazing…  Knowing exactly which fish that melt-in-your-mouth toro came from, and exactly when and how it was cut.  Even though I grew up eating tuna as a toddler in Tokyo, even though I’ve seen (and drooled over) live tuna fish many times in different aquariums, I never really made any true connection with that pinkish slice of fish and that huge fish.

The feast was hosted by our dear friend Sysmans, specifically the husband, Jan who went to Mitsuwa with us and came up with this amazing idea to invite quite a few of his foodie friends.

The good news was one couple was going to Half Moon Bay, and they’d get some crabs from the boat to accompany our friend (tuna) from the sea.  Dungeness season has just started.  This is going to be even better!

As usual, Jan assumed that being a native Japanese, I should be responsible for cooking and cutting tuna.  

As I plan our menu, I first planned to make Chawan-mushi because it’s been so cold, and Sysmans love it.  However,  I was still somewhat confusing tuna with beef, (because of the scenes from the cutting performance)  and thinking that both of our mains are quite rich, I decided to go for light side dishes with lots of vegetables.

  • Namasu (Japanese salad of julienned daikon and normally carrots. I made it with persimmon),
  • Nibitashi (braised and soaked vegetables) of  mizuna and abura-age,
  • Cauliflower with Sambal mayonnaise
  • Goma-Ae (green beans with sesame sauce) 
  • Steamed Rice
  • Kinoko-Jiru (mushroom broth)

As I was getting ready for the sashimi, the Zerens showed up… with FIVE Dungeness crabs drowned and drunk upside down in soy sauce and sake based liquid in the huge cooler.  You can even see the bubbles coming up from the crabs as if they were hiccupping!  These happily drunk crustacean didn’t seem to know they were to be grilled and steamed, and end up in our stomach to make us happy.

Then Greg pulled out a sashimi knife in the box and torch!  This guy is prepared!

Just like as we see at Mitsuwa, swiftly I delegated my sashimi cutting duties to Greg, who quickly proceeded with sharpening his sashimi knife with a whetstone!  Remember? Men does showy cutting job, and women do pesky scraping?  That’s the traditional Japanese way. So I decided to focus on making side dishes and be an observer. My mother will be very proud!  (Note: I’m being sarcastic. I’m not known as the most traditional Japanese woman.  If I was, I won’t be here in the US.)

He made one of toro into tataki… searing the outside with his special torch.  We ate it with a little bit of special bamboo salt from Korea, grated ginger, garlic, and green onion.  They melt in the mouth and disappeared very quickly from the plate.

Akami (maguro) was cut in to slices, and displayed on the platter like flower arrangement.

2 other toro was eaten as it is.  Tataki was great, but when you eat that toro just as it is with a bit of soy sauce and wasabi (of course, real wasabi), it’s just so sweet, rich, ah… its heavenly, beyond expression…

Of course, realizing that the plates were my pottery I gave them years ago added extra flavor of gratefulness.

Lots of tuna was sliced one after another.  As the chef cuts them, we were enjoying the fruit of his labor (in the background.)  I wonder how many slices end up in his mouth…  Probably not many.

And of course crab was very delicious too!  I ate most of crab butter (from 5 crabs), before we started eating the meat.  I know it’s high in cholesterol, but I lost weight by eating healthy, so it was my time to over-indulge (plus not too many other was interested in them.  Again, the Japanese virtue of Mottainai, “Waste not”.)

Oh, and we even had uni (sea urchin) too! I love them, yet my husband don’t eat them, so I thought, I can share this with everyone, calculating half of the people won’t either, and half of uni will end up in my stomach.  I was wrong.  These guys disappeared quickly as well, before I took a photo.

Nakaochi was turned into negi-toro (I guess I should call it negi-nakaochi). We ate it as hand-roll.  That was delicious too!

I thought hand-roll was the wrap-up of our feast.  Maybe in Japan, but we are in the US, and there were quite a few kids.  Can’t forget about them, right?

So this was our dessert. What a spread!  This was a feast I will remember and dreaming about for years.

As we wrapping up, one of the guests toasted for this “New Thanksgiving Tradition”. 

Great idea!!!  I’ll be happy to offer my service as a Japanese woman who cooks side dishes and clean the kitchen, and to taste food before serving to the guests.

Again, thank you Sysmans for your friendship and generosity.  As in Japanese, 持つべきものは良き友”. (What one needs is good friends.) 

And thank you for keeping all of my pottery which I’ve forgotten about! I’m so happy that they get to be of good service at this special feast!

What’s the dinner you remember for a long time?

Blue Fin Tuna Cutting Performance Report


Have you ever seen a large tuna cut in front of you?  I never had, even though I grew up in Tokyo, and went to Tsukiji Fish Market very early in the morning… until last week.

Last Saturday, there was a fresh Bluefin Tuna cutting performance at Mitsuwa Market Place in San Jose.  So I dragged (actually they were excited to join me) my husband, my friend Jan and his son Eryk to Mitsuwa.  This is a highly unusual experience, not too many people, even in Japan has an opportunity to see something like this.

When we got there 15 minutes before noon, there were already quite a bit of audience around the “stage”, where beautiful fresh bluefin tuna (Hon Maguro) lay there quietly…  headless and tailless.

According to the store manager who was an MC, this 450 lbs beauty has just arrived from Spain.

There are many tools they use to cut the beast. (OK, first when it was laying there, it looked like a Spanish beauty, but once it was cut, it looked more like a cow!  Just see through the picture and video.  You’ll agree. No pun intended.) 

Among the things they have ready for probably the biggest sale day of the year (Mitsuwa’s own Black Fri…, um, Saturday), they have all these stickers for fatty tuna and very fatty tuna ready, right in front of us.  This is exciting!

First they cut two jaw part (kama) and auctioned them off. 


Video: cutting the kama (jaw part) out, and auctioning it — just like at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo!

Who wants to buy one?   Had we known Jan would invite 10 people over, we should’ve bought them.  (One small problem…  We didn’t have a big enough grill.)  Some restaurant owners bought them instead.


After the kama, they needed to cut the loin part in half with a Samurai sword.  Around this time, I started to think it’s more of a beast, not the Spanish beauty….

Video: Cutting the loin part (Akami = red flesh i.e. Maguro) in half with Samurai sword.

Now the one of the loin is out, three men bring it to the table… 

They will be cut into chunks, then sliced into saku, the thin, rectangular piece of flesh that will be cut into sashimi pieces at home or restaurant.  (See pictures below.)

Then the belly part… Toro.  By this time, I’m totally thinking this is beef.  Doesn’t it look like one?

Once the tuna’s bone is exposed, now the women come out to scrape the meat around the bone, called Naka-ochi (middle scrapings).  Only men do the (showy?) cut, only women do the (not-so glamorous?) scraping…  Very Japanese, yet I didn’t notice until my American husband pointed it out. 

The loin that were cut in chunks are sliced thinner, and into rectangular shape, and made into saku…  Lots of them.

Once an MC, now back to the store manager, he’s busy doing whatever needed to be done to sell these highly valued (and priced accordingly) delicacy.

Chu-toro (Fatty tuna).  They were sold at $50/lb.   For something that has been just cut in front of your own eyes, it’s not a bad price (especially if I compare with what I would have to pay in Tokyo… or at our favorite sushi restaurant!

These are o-toro (very fatty tuna).  It almost look like beef…  perfectly marbled Kobe beef (top) or bacon (middle).

Monstrous bone from the gigantic tuna. The red flesh still on the bone is further scraped (by women, of course) and sold as naka-ochi.

Naka-ochi.  Since the fish is so big, even the scraped flesh is pretty substantial.  It was soooo delicious!

My dear friend Jan got so excited, he invited 10 of his friends right from the store, well before everything was over (actually more like “as soon as they started cutting the kama”.  To my surprise, pretty much everyone happened to be at home, and they joined us at Jan’s house for a major “After-Thanksgiving” feast. 

I’ll report about that later.

So… what do you think?

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival 2009 Report: Part 3 (Nov 7, Saturday Evening)


My third post from Foodbuzz Blogger Festival is the recap from the Feast and Award Ceremony held at Greenleaf Produce Warehouse in the Hunter’s Point area of San Francisco.

As soon as we walked into the building, we were greeted with fabulous glass(es) of wine from Bonny Doon.


Also awaiting us was a cornucopia of seasonable vegetables… This will be great!


Foodbuzz has teamed up with the crew from “Outstanding in the Field” to bring us an extraordinary evening of dining in an urban, farm-to-table setting.  Look how long our community table is…  unbroken for 250+ people!  If you need to go to the bathroom, you have to go to either end, unless you are smart enough to sit on the bathroom side, right next to the stairs leading to it, like me. (It wasn’t on purpose.)


The Leftover Queen, Jenn DiPiazza and Yours Truly, the Leftover Wizard, Mari Suzuki. (Could be the url for my next site?)


My name tag was flipped backwards many times, and people chuckled about me being “well-prepared” with a packet of Alka Seltzer…  just in case! (In case you are wondering…  I didn’t need it, because the dinner was much lighter with more vegetables and seafood. )


Taste of fall…  Variety of Japanese mushrooms in beautiful wooden bowls waiting for hot dashi for our first course.


We mingled around the entrance area with a glass of Bonny Doon wine. This area is also the starting point of the long snaky community table.  Wonder how long it was…  Notice the boxes of produce on the top left side. 


Chef Dennis Lee of Namu Restaurant near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco  has sourced local, organic produce as well as sustainable and pasture-raised meats to create a spectacular seasonal menu with traditional Korean influence.  Therefore, the first to appear on our table was picked vegetable platter, including familiar kimchi, as well as pickled broccoli and greens.


A few words from our hosts tonight from Greenleaf Produce warehouse, Outstanding in the Field and Foodbuzz before dinner started.


Our first course, Mushroom dashi, maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms.  It reminded me of osumashi (meaning clear) dashi broth I often have back home in fall… It was very soothing on a cold evening, especially after a huge meal the night before.  The chef used a very small amount of picked vegetables (the white triangular thing floating in the photo) that added a nice citrus-y flavor to the broth.


Psshhhhhhhh!!  They even brought us their own sparkling water with a pressured bottle.  Fun!


Just like at a Japanese homes, they only gave us chopsticks.  Alexa from Foodbuzz told me that they had brought in forks and knives just in case, yet I didn’t see anyone with them. (Thank God, it was Japanese style chopsticks which are made of wood, and rather short.  The kind they use at Korean restaurants are often metal and super heavy, and those at Chinese restaurants are super long and slippery, both too hard to use even for a native Japanese who grew up with them!)


Our second course: Udon, grilled Monterey calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee & yellow pear tomato with chojang & semame vinaigrette.  Cold and refreshing, this is perfect for summer, or for my lunch, anytime!  The calamari were sweet and perfectly cooked.  The vinaigrette seemed to be very similar to the juice from kimchi, so I’ll definitely make it when I buy a jar of kimchi! (I love leftovers! Even the brine of the picked things! Leftovers ROCK!  Right, Jenn?)


Third course: (according to the menu):  Sea trout baked with dashi kombu, fried garlic and Japanese curry powder. 

Now, we found it was actually salmon.  And I don’t know if it was baked with dashi kombu.  Not only I didn’t see it, I didn’t taste it either.  Maybe because of the super generous size, it was almost raw inside, and under-seasoned for the size of the fish.  Given that I was born and raised in Japan, and my sushi in-take has significantly decreased due to the economy, I was gladly finishing up the quite a large amount of fish left on the plate, but many diners decided not to finish. Clearly, the disappointing dish of the evening.


On the other hand, we loved Mushroom risotto with Koshihikari rice, crispy maitake mushrooms.

The risotto was creamy and the fried maitake was like umami bomb! The portion was a little too small for all 8 of us, especially since many didn’t eat much salmon, 2 people didn’t get any. Luckily, the wait stuff granted our wish for a little more.


Fourth course:  Roasted brussels sprouts, ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, bonito flakes. 

This was clearly the huge winner!  Everyone couldn’t stop talking about it, even well after dinner.  For some reason, the table next to us didn’t finish, so we were treated with extra.  Sweet! 

These cream-colored shavings that looks like grated Parmigiano Reggiano is actually bonito flakes which we Japanese use often for everyday cooking (but not much so in Western dishes.)  My guess is not only garlic, but brussels sprouts also got some treatment with ponzu (which also a staple in a Japanese kitchen including mine).  Expect me to make a similar dish for Thanksgiving and beyond!


The main – Soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails, baby carrots and fingering potato, OB Beer and denjang demi. 

This was quite good, especially the tender cheeks…   Again, the next table left quite a bit on the plate, so we took a liberty of finishing them all for them.  On a side note – I loved these people who shared our area!  I didn’t even have to be the one who initiates with “Hey, there a lot left on their plate and they seem to be done.  Shall we take it?”


Ben Dehan, the founder and CEO of Foodbuzz.


Staff from Foodbuzz, Greenleaf Produce and Outstanding in the Field who collaborated and worked hard to make this evening a huge success!


And over dessert of Koshihikari rice pudding, cookie crumble and Frog Hollow Farm‘s Warren pear, the winners of the 2009 Foodbuzz Blog Award was announced.


Thank you, chefs for the delicious food!

It was such a special evening, it was very sad that it came to an end…   To me, this meant the end of this year’s festival, because I needed to attend another food related event at UC Berkeley (“The Gastronomic Influence of Japanese Hybrid Food”, obviously very important subject for me) on Sunday morning.

Thank you everyone at Foodbuzz, Outstanding in the Field, Greenleaf Produce Warehouse, Namu Restaurant, Bonny Doon Vineyard and Frog Hollow Farm, and Chef Ian from Hog Island, and everyone else who was helping to make this event a huge success!

And of course, all other sponsors, participants who provided amazing food, drinks, venues and services!  You all are amazing!

Last but not least, thank all the bloggers from around the world for the opportunity to share our passion of food! I really enjoyed meeting with you all, and can’t wait to see you again soon!

If any of you wants to experience this, it’s highly recommended.  Start writing a food blog regularly, and become a featured publisher of Foodbuzz. This certainly was the best decision I made this year!

Next week…  We go back home to the home cooking.  Something easy, healthy and tasty.  How about some Japanese dish you can make with familiar ingredients?

So stay tuned…

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival 2009 Report: Part 2 (Nov 7, Saturday Afternoon)


The Day 2 of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival started with the feeling of overindulgence…  I thought I didn’t eat too much, yet if I put all I ate last night side by side, it probably was a lot more than usual.  Sometimes I get too excited in the sight of good food, especially when I didn’t have to pay, and forget the fact that I’m not in my 20s (nor in 30s) any longer.

With my strong commitment not to overeat, and a packet of Alka Seltzer sneaked in my name tag (the best antidote for over-indulgence, both food and drink, in my opinion), I ventured again to downtown San Francisco.  The afternoon event was called “The Taste Pavillion”, and have over 50 of Foodbuzz’s favorite producers, brands, wineries and chefs share their fabulous creation with us…  I was excited with somewhat shaky confidence not to over-eat, because this is from 12:30 and 3:30, and the dinner is from 6!

The first taste for me was Tri to cook’s  “Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding” (photo above).  It was one of the winner for the Nature’s Pride Recipe contest.  She used only 1/2 cup pumpkin and 1/4 lbs of chicken sausage for 2 1/2 cup of bread, so the result was subtle yet really delicious. I highly recommend this recipe.  One of these things I need to recreate for my poor husband who didn’t get invited (again).  Luckily, I have some pumpkin and chicken sausage in the fridge! This will be great for holiday party as well.


The second, which is also from another winner was Ravenous Couple’s “Fried Halloumi Cheese Toast“.  I rarely eat Halloumi cheese, yet this was quite yummy, and super easy to make, so next time I go shopping, I’ll be putting in a package of Halloumi in my basket!  This will be perfect for healthy holiday party appetizer, as well.


Oh, yes!  Seafood!  We didn’t have any last night except for the oysters, so I was really excited! You have to give me a credit for asking for the smaller version, shown above. (I forgot who this was from… Sorry…)


Chad Gillard from Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver (Danish round pancake). Chad and I had a very good conversation about what else we could use these pan for — of course, giant takoyaki!  I was so excited about this, end up spending my entire yoga class on Monday thinking about all different usages and recipes for this.


Mezzetta had some interesting cocktails made of red pepper and strawberry.


Beer Braised Frank Steak on Garlic Polenta (Mezzetta).  The bigger one is normal portion, the little one is for me. This was quite yummy, I wanted to ask for more, but more tables in sight to visit stopped me.


Tomato Soup also from Mezzetta. It’s very pretty and festive for holiday parties.  Parmesan crisp was really yummy, yet the soup tasted as if I was drinking tomato sauce. I would’ve liked it better if it was less tomato-ey.


Sajen JAMU turmeric and ginger-turmeric drink.  It may sound weird to some, but they were both very refreshing and delicious! Perfect after (almost) over-indulgence!


A chef (sorry, forgot which restaurant he’s from) drizzling fennel oil (I think), on his dainty creation. I thought it was smoked salmon with cream, but it’s actually cubed beets with meringue.


Kerry Gold Irish Butter and Cheeses.  They had 4 different kind of cheeses – Dubliner with Irish Stout, Aged Cheddar with Irish Whiskey, Ivernia, and forth one???  Probably Reicester? All of them were really, really really good! (Yes, another thing I love about Ireland!)


Another perfect appetizer from “Made in Napa Valley” Autumn Savory Tartlets. Since I was on a “diet”, I asked for the filling only… It was really delicious, especially the Creme Topping made with their Vineyard Pantry Blue Cheese Mustard and Gorgonzola cheese! I think both the sauce and filling can be Kitchen Wizarded into many different dishes… I can’t wait to experiment!



Lots of fancy chocolate…


Iron Chef Morimoto has his own beer now. Brewed by Rogue Ales, he has 3 soba (buckwheat) ales. My favorite? Black Obi … taste a bit like Guinness.


I caught Doug Collister, VP Operations from Foodbuzz when he was sneaking out of the venue with a loaf of Nature’s Pride bread in his hand and a bottle of wine in his back pocket!. These people working for Foodbuzz are most fun, gracious people. It must be a fun place to work for! I feel honored to be associated with as one of their Featured Publisher. (That’s how I get invited to all these fun events and dinners you read about.)

Ahhh…  Looking at these pictures makes me hungry…  

It was such a fun event.  I’m not on my temporary “diet” any more, I want to go back to Metreon and try all these food again…  Maybe in my dreams, or by recreating those I loved.  My husband and friends won’t complain with the latter option!

To be continued to Foodbuzz Blogger Festival 2009 Report: Part 3 (Nov 7, Saturday Evening). (Another) amazing dinner at Greenleaf Produce Warehouse and Blogger Award Ceremony…

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival 2009 Report: Part 1 (Nov 6, Friday Evening)


Last weekend, I attended Foodbuzz‘s First Blogger Festival.  We had 250 fellow bloggers from all over the US and several people even came from other countries, and get to spend the weekend with lots of great food, drinks and friends!

The photo on top is the view from  the rooftop terrace of Hotel Vitale, where we had a welcome reception, mingling with fellow bloggers.  I’ve been living in San Francisco Bay Area for 13 years, but boy, what a welcoming view!


Then at 7pm, we moved to the Ferry Plaza for “Taste of San Francisco Street Food Fare”. Here’s Chef Ian Marks from Hog Island Oyster Company shucking away these pristine oysters, while answering questions. (They have twice a week Happy Hour (Mon & Thurs 5-7pm, so if you are in San Francisco, don’t miss it!)  Their oysters are so good, my friend Elizabeth’s mom and brother ate 6 dozen each! (not at the festival, thank god!)


This is San Francisco, so we gotta have something vegan AND raw!  Creation by Chef Leland Jung of Alive.


Checking out all the food options….  Everything looks good…


This was one of the most popular… Porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti.  These people seem to have several trucks and hit various farmers’ market throughout the Bay Area.


For those of you who are thirsty, and want something nonalcoholic, they had variety of tea from Ito-en.  The green one in the middle is something I’m very familiar with in Japan.  The US version looks exactly the same except they have this “Oi Ocha” written at the bottom.  They were perfect to wash out the fat from all these yummy food… (The same concept with dim sum and tea.)


Lots of people, lots of fun.  These people also love to talk about food all day long, and they are not afraid to stop the conversation to say “Excuse me, I need to grab that!”, just like me!


Porchetta getting grilled for sandwich.  The fat drips down to season the potatoes…. Yum!  Many people found this sandwich out of this world.  Warning: This sandwich is very rich.  I asked for a 1/4 and couldn’t even finish.


Very tasty potato and chorizo taco from Tacolicious.  Even though I was overly full at this moment, it’s my favorite combination, I had to have it.  Unlike the sope version at Tacubaya in Berkeley,  this is much lighter and less greasy. I loved Tacolicious version even better. Oh, and the mild green salsa was spectacular! They also had short-rib taco (looked amazing), and black-eyed peas for vegetarian folks.  I need to go back to the Ferry Plaza soon for more, soon.


And last but not least…  Strauss Family Creamery Ice Cream.  We got to taste both vanilla and coffee, and both were delish! I was worried that it may be too heavy, but it wasn’t… Probably one of the best ice cream I’ve had..  Organic and Kosher.


These are the gifts we got from our sponsors! I’m so excited to cook with them!

Thank you the FoodBuzz team and our generous sponsors for the great evening!

Eat Real Festival Kick-off Dinner at Camino Restaurant – Review

Camino Restaurant in our neighborhood, Oakland, CA

Camino Restaurant in our neighborhood, Oakland, CA

Last night, a New York based organization, Civil Eats partnered with Camino Restaurant in our neighborhood in Oakland, CA, (1 min walk down from our house!) for their fundraiser as part of the Eat Real Festival’s Keeping It Real dinners.  As a Featured Publisher of, I was invited to join the festivities – enjoy great, sustainable food and meet new people.

So here’s my report on what we got to enjoy.


It’s a beautiful restaurant. Huge floor to ceiling glass windows in the front, staging-area with huge wood burning fireplace in the back, 4 rows of communal tables, adorned by huge Chandeliers with some wild flowers dangling from them.  Quite charming.  As the night gets darker, my impression is this restaurant is dark! It’s romantic with the fire in the fireplace and candlelight, but really difficult to discern what you are eating, or to read, let alone take photos! Some of my photos taken later in the evening have this harsh brightness…  I am sorry…  Either that or black frame.


As we find our table,  we were greeted by a plate of Olives & Spicy pickles (carrots, fennel and onions on ours) was awaiting us.  They were quite good.


Very cute place cards. Notice the one above is a night scene from Tokyo.


We also had organic and biodynamic wines on the table– one white (Ukiah Chardonnay) and red (Grenache).  I never had these before, but both were very good and smooth.  Grenache had a very nice sweetness.  I’m not a wine connoisseur, so rather than trying to explain something I’m not good at and being wrong, try them for yourself.

2008 Ukiah Cellars Chardonnay
2008 Dashe Cellars Grenache



First Course: Tomato, cucumber and eggplant salads with almond salsa and flatbread


This I have to say, was my favorite.  The quality of their produce is superb. You really can taste the flavor of each vegetable, and the minimum treatment the chef does really let their individuality shine through.  Eggplant salad (I promised you guys on yesterday’s post, so I’m not going to try to figure out the recipe and put it on — at least for a while!) was creamy, garlicky, and delicious. This was the first time I had “almond salsa” or anything of that sort (except for Romanesco sauce, which has a lot of peppers and tomatoes in it, along with almonds), and it was out of this world!  We got this huge jar of almonds recently, so some fun experiments await me (possibly with more eggplants!)


Second Course: Chicken paella cooked in the fireplace with fresh shell beans, romano beans and scallions:


By the time this course was served, it was about 9pm…  We were starving!  As you can see in the photo, they cooked the paella in their impressive wood burning fireplace in the back of the restaurant.  Even though it was the featured dish, to me, it was my least favorite.  Maybe because I’m Japanese and love seafood so much, I felt there was something missing which was probably seafood which is how I am used to eating Paella.  Maybe because I ate the crepinette first, the paella wasn’t as hot as it should have been, and it also needed a little more salt (again, this could be due to the crepinette’s saltiness.)



Crepinettes are hamburger shaped sausage which is wrapped in caul fat (for details, click here for Epicurious Food Dictionary’s definition).  It may sound and look gross to some, and was a bit salty, but it was delicious.  My husband doesn’t eat red meat (and he’d certainly finds the idea of wrapped in caul thing gross), so this was a real treat for me.

Butter lettuce salad

As you see in the photo above, this simple dish was perfect match to crepinettes and paella. Very fresh greens (see the vibrant colors in the photo!  Sorry for the flash.  By then, it was way too dark to go without flash.)


Third Course: Cheese plate


We had 5 kinds of cheese, mostly goat cheese (or goat cow mix). I was so hungry, and had already had a second helping of paella and salad, so by this time (10pm), I was getting quite full. But how many times can you have the chance to try 5 different types of Artisan cheese in the US?  The cheeses from Andante Dairy and Harley Farms were so delicious, and the walnut bread and tomato jam…  Savory, a bit spicy, and sweet…  Ah, out of this world!  This restaurant really does have a  magic touch with their vegetables.



Fourth Course: Walnut meringue with pluots and cream:


Again, they do simple things very well. The pluots were soooo delicious, and cream was the perfect match to their sweet, sour vibrancy.  The meringue was…  I don’t know what other people thought (by then, close to 11pm, everyone was eating quickly and ready to go home), but for me, it was like airy version of nougat, a little too sweet.  This late at night and after a huge meal, I could’ve appreciated something lighter.  As some of you know, I don’t like sweets too much, so it may be just me.

They served a little glass of lemon verbena tisane after the dessert… What a refreshing ending with a heavenly scent!  I wanted a huge pot to settle my stomach, from this over-indulgence.

At Camino, everyone sits around a large communal table.  We had 9 at our table, and for some reason, I was on the so called “birthday seat”, in other words, farthest away from center, where all the food was placed.  This concerned me a bit at the beginning, because I had to watch others digging in to the food, which is a torture for me, especially around all these foodies! Luckily, everyone was gracious enough to get more than enough food for me.  Plus, toward the end, it dawned (yes, it was almost at dawn!) on me that it was a blessing in disguise.  Had I sat so close to food, I would have kept eating, and my stomach would have really exploded.

Overall, great dinner in great atmosphere.  I know they were busy, but I wish they would have explained each dish when brought out, and that they didn’t leave us alone to figure out what each dish was based on the menu…  it was too dark to read!

Especially, the cheeses were so great, until an attentive waitress came after we were halfway through asking “Did anyone explain to you what they are?”, we didn’t quite know what kind of cheeses we were eating.  At that point, especially in the dark, I couldn’t identify what’s what.  So even though I liked some of them, I had no clue – what they were, the name, or where to get them. (If they prepared a little card explaining which cheese was what and where we could purchase them, the cheese company would’ve made some kaching, kaching, kaching!)

When we were done, it was 11 pm…  This was the most leisurely, and  longest dinner I’ve ever had in a restaurant in the US for sure!

Thank you, Eat Real Festival,,, and of course, Camino Restaurant for including me for this delicious evening and great cause.

Gracious host, owner of Camino Restaurant, Russell Moore (and me)

Gracious host, owner of Camino Restaurant, Russell Moore (and me)

Oh, if you go there, make sure to call us!  It’s literally down a short hill (Jean St) from our house, so we’d love to see you!

And don’t forget to check out the bathrooms.  Look at this ornate mirror in one of them.  Can you tell if this was found in the Lady’s room or Men’s room?


About the Eat Real Festival:

Founded in 2008, Eat Real Festival is a social venture created to inspire eaters to choose tasty, healthy, good food. Through a vibrant, local festival in Oakland, CA, and a focus on delicious and sustainable “street food,” Eat Real puts eaters in contact with the real people — the farmers, chefs, and producers — who make our food. Eat Real Festival will donate a percentage of its profit to several California organizations promoting access to healthy and affordable food, entrepreneurship and economic development.

For event details (this Friday – Sun 8/28-30), click here.


Civil Eats promotes critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems as part of building economically and socially just communities. In our efforts, we support the development of a dialog among local and national leaders about the American food system, and its effects abroad. Civil Eats can be humorous, serious, academic, philosophical, conversational – its style of conversation is as diverse as its 40+ contributors – but it is always thought provoking, innovative, and focused on food politics.

Camino Restaurant menu changes everyday.   Click here for San Francisco Chronicle review of the restaurant.