Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Americana Grill Restaurant Review

I've enjoyed some very special dinners lately, but it was an unpretentious lunch at Americana Grill that I’m most excited to tell you about. But first, a little background. It was several years ago when I first discovered Broken Record, a restaurant in the back of a dive bar in the Excelsior, a part of the city so far off the beaten track that you have to get on the freeway to get there. The kitchen was run by James Moisey and Shane LaValley. Their food seemed like pub grub on the surface but it was so much more than that. There were burgers, sandwiches, salads and some Southern things like crawfish and grits, buttery biscuits and mac and cheese. They also served a walnut pie that I miss to this day. The food was inexpensive and sometimes a little over the top, like a burger with bacon ground into the mix, but always good. 

Chef James Moisey
Chef James Moisey at Americana Grill
The two chefs went on to great success at Rickybobby in the lower Haight for three years. And then their rent went up by 50% and the restaurant closed. Could they have raised the prices? Probably. But affordability was part of the charm.

So I was excited to learn that James Moisey was cooking again, this time at Americana Grill. Frankly I never heard of the place and it’s so non-descript it is easy to miss, but it’s in a stretch of Balboa that is becoming a culinary destination with outstanding places like Marla Bakery and Restaurant up the block and Cassava across the street. When I stopped in I asked the chef what I should order, and he sheepishly said, "everything" because it was all his menu and all good, and you know what? He was right. Our party of four ordered half orders of a number of dishes just so we could try more things and there was nothing I wouldn't order again. Please keep that in mind when looking at some of the photos.

First up the Country Biscuit Plate with sausage gravy, fried eggs on a crumbly buttermilk biscuit. A comforting, satisfying dish if there ever was one. 

Next the Pork Fries, this is the dish that put Moisey on the map. pulled pork, waffle fries, house cheese sauce, Buffalo sauce and scallions. It’s been described as the American version of nachos and it’s just as addictively good at once crunchy, creamy, rich and gooey.

The Louie Salad has large juicy shrimp (not a pile of often mushy bay shrimp) over a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce and lots of fresh vegetables, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumber, plus the traditional hard boiled egg and thousand island dressing. The salad is a hearty main dish, bursting with flavor. 

The Roasted Eggplant Lasanga has layers of mushrooms and peppers in addition to eggplant along with a bright tomato sauce and just a dollop of house ricotta and fresh basil. It's lighter than the usual lasagna but just as good if not better.

The Shrimp Fra Diavolo is another winner, served over polenta with a fiery lobster broth, parmesan and fried basil leaves. 
Bread Pudding French Toast

The piece de resistance might be the Bread Pudding French Toast with strawberries, maple syrup and whipped cream. Order this for breakfast or for dessert. It’s the most custardy French toast I’ve ever had, more bread pudding than French toast so lusciously soft and creamy. 

With only one dish over $15, the prices here are very affordable. You’ll find lots of the old favorites from Moisey's prior gigs and the service couldn’t be more accommodating and friendly. There’s an all-day menu, so come whenever you’re hungry and order whatever makes you happy, because this is happy food. 

Note: The website is not up to date, but you can find them on Facebook or check out the menu.

Americana Grill
3532 Balboa St @ 36th Ave. 
San Francisco CA

Open everyday except Tuesday from 10 am - 3 pm and 5 pm - 10 pm

Monday, September 26, 2016

Apple Welsh Rarebit Recipe

A few years ago I received a shipment of SweeTango apples courtesy of the growers and used them to make an individual apple crisp. This year, I was contacted to be a SweetTango blog ambassador, and was also hired to create a couple of extra crunchy recipes using raw apples. One of the recipes I suggested wasn’t chosen, but I was eager to make it anyway and it turned out to be a real keeper. 

The SweeTango was developed at the University of Minnesota and is cross between a sweet Honeycrisp and a tangier Zestar! apple. It’s grown in New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, and Nova Scotia, Canada. While it’s fine to bake SweeTango apples, they are particularly good raw. In addition to being juicy and sweet with a complex flavor that’s sweet, spicy and tangy, these apples are really known for their crunch. And there’s a reason for that. The apples have cells twice the size of most other apples. How crunchy is the SweeTango? It's acutally the Guinness Book of World record holder for “loudest crunch of an apple.” 

My recipe combines three classic flavors, apples, cheese and beer. You can use whatever blend of cheese you like although cheddar is traditional. Just make sure whichever cheeses you use are very good melting cheeses. Many recipes place the toast and cheese sauce under the broiler, but I didn’t find it necessary. The combination of the gooey cheese with the terrifically crunchy, juicy and sweet apples is what it’s all about. Since the recipe uses just a little bit of beer, I recommend drinking the rest of the beer with the dish. More tips, recipes and photos are available on the SweeTango Facebook page.

Note: A serving is one piece of toast, but in my experience, some diners may want to eat more! This dish can be served with simple green salad. 

Apple Welsh Rarebit
Makes 4 servings


4 slices French bread, lightly toasted
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup beer, I used Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, a malty brown lager
2 cups grated cheese—combination of cheddar and gruyere
1 thinly sliced apple


Put butter in a saucepan over medium heat and when it melts, stir in flour. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and bubbly. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire sauce and beer and whisk until smooth. Simmer until it begins to thicken, whisking constantly, then  turn heat to low, add the cheese and continue stirring just until smooth.

Places slices of apple on the toast then put the cheese mixture on top of the apples and serve immediately.


Disclaimer: I received the apples as part of the SweeTango blog ambassador program. I was not monetarily compensated for this blog post. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tocha Tea Review - Herb Teas

Earlier this year I was avoiding caffeine and drinking only herbal tea. Herbal tea is really a misnomer, there is no such thing. Tea is made from leaves of the tea plant, camellia sinensis. Black tea, oolong, green tea and even white tea is made from the leaves of this plant. The different styles and colors come from how it’s processed. Herbal teas are more properly tisanes, a French term coined in the 1930’s. It can contain herbs, flowers, spices or other plant material. It is generally caffeine free. 

I’m always trying to find tisanes that taste like something, anything. Often they are too bland or one strong flavor like licorice or rose hip takes over. Recently I discovered two fantastic blends from a small company called Tocha Tea. They were created by Venus Tsui, who was struggling with getting enough sleep as a new mom, and turned to a book of old Chinese remedies. The teas were inspired by her experience with herbs and are packaged in biodegradable sachets so you can see the pretty petals and herbs in each one. The packaging is also gorgeous! But what I like best about these tisanes are their lovely aroma, flavor and their relaxing properties. They have no added flavorings or colors. They are truly all natural. 

This tea is so pretty and fragrant it looks like potpourri!, To support sleep it also has all organic mostly floral ingredients—chamomile from Egypt, rose petals from India, osmanthus from China and mint from the US. 

Just a cup is perfect before bedtime as a relaxing ritual. But I could also see having a cup on a stressful or day or taking it with me into the bathtub. It would also make a terrific gift, although I'm so fond of it I've already bought myself another canister. 

This tea is a perfectly balanced blend of all organic herbs and flowers— honeybush from South Africa, rose petals with India, mint from the US and hibiscus from Egypt. I say balanced because hibiscus can sometimes dominate and in this blend it doesn’t at all. It’s juicy and has a natural sweetness so I find it doesn’t need any added honey or sugar. 

It's good any time of the day but I particularly like it in the morning. It's has enough flavor to complement baked goods served with butter and jam. 

These teas are available in local Seattle area markets and online

Disclaimer: I received these teas as samples, but was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Hatch Green Chili Con Carne Recipe

There is chile and then there’s chili. Chiles are sometimes called peppers, but that’s not really accurate. Pepper comes from peppercorns. Confusing things even further there is chili which is short for chili powder, made from powdered chilis and chili short for chili con carne, a stew made with fresh chilies or chile powder. The reason I bring this up is that when I received a carton of freshly roasted Hatch green chiles, I set out to find a recipe for chili con carne, made with Hatch chiles and let’s just say Google and I found it rather challenging. 

Mostly I found recipes for pork chili verde but a request was made for beef. Lisa over at Homesick Texan has what looks like an amazing Chile Verde Con Carne made with beef, but it has 17 ingredients, which is fine if you’re making a big batch. But if you’re making a small batch during the week, my version is much simpler with a lot fewer ingredients. 

As with all chili, you should let your taste be your guide. This year I got mild chiles and I'm really glad I did. The spicy ones are so hot I can't use very many and when I do, I get more heat than true chile flavor. With mild chiles I can use more. When making chili, taste for seasoning but also for texture and adjust the ratio of onions, tomatoes and green chiles to your liking. I made this version fairly mild. Beer can be used in place of water. Chile is good with beans, over rice, with tortilla chips or fresh tortillas, not to mention cornbread. Best of all, chili is very adaptable and very forgiving. 

My chiles came from a Hatch chile roast, sponsored by Melissa’s  and Mollie Stone’s MarketWant to attend a Hatch chile roast in the Bay Area? There are three more dates left this year at Mollie Stone Markets:

Burlingame: Sunday September 11th, 2016
Greenbrae: Saturday September 17th, 2016 
Palo Alto: Sunday September 18th, 2016

Hatch Green Chile Chili Con Carne 
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, chili grind if available
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1 Tablespoon mild Hatch chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2- 3/4 cup diced roasted mild Hatch green chiles (about 5-8)
1 medium or hot Hatch green chile, diced, optional
1 14.5 ounce fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up until crumbled and no longer pink. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and moisture mostly evaporated. Add the chile powder, cumin and soy sauce and stir. When combined add the chiles, tomatoes, tomato sauce and water. 

Raise heat bring to a simmer, lower the heat and simmer gently, partially covered for 45 minutes or until flavors have melded. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. 

Top with garnishes such as chopped green onions, cilantro, shredded cheese and sour cream or plain yogurt if desired. 


Disclaimer: Mollie Stone’s Market and Melissa’s provided me with roasted Hatch green chiles and chile powder. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post.