Lots of Good Eatin’ Over Memorial Day Weekend!

What a fun Memorial Day Weekend we had...so much yummy food I’m almost sick of eating. Almost.  It started out with an afternoon at KQED filming the season 6 opener of Check Please! Bay Area...that’s right, yours truly is going to be on the show!  More on that as the air date get’s closer!

During the rest of the weekend we tried out three restaurants that we hadn’t been to before: Chouchou in Twin Peaks, Flour + Water in the Mission, and the new Bun Mee in the Fillmore.  We attended SF Carnival 2011 and even made it to the North Bay to go to the 22nd Annual Larkspur Flower & Food Festival after a 35 mile bike ride up Mt. Tam...gotta earn those calories somehow!

Phew, I’m tired, happy and full just thinking about it!  Since it was such a fun food-filled weekendI thought I’d give you a quick run down so you can decide which restaurants or events next year you want to check out yourself...
Smoky Pea, Prosciutto & Artichoke Pasta
The EatingWell website very rarely steers me wrong, and this recipe is certainly no exception.  It's a relatively quick and easy recipe, unless you've never worked with fresh artichokes to get the heart for a recipe.  That takes a little bit of time, but once you do it once or twice you'll breeze right through it!  The lemon water is imperative so you don't end up with brown ugly artichoke hearts.  Of course, you could certainly use canned artichoke hearts, but with the spring peas & artichokes in season and so great right now this is a great way to use local, seasonal veggies in a delicious recipe.
SavoryGirl’s Spaghetti & Meatballs

I get rave reviews about my spaghetti and meatballs from Christian...granted, he loves most of my cooking, but still he really likes when I make this!  It's a little blasphemous since I'm Italian, but I often use jarred sauces (Francesco Rinaldi is my favorite, although a bit expensive) and I mostly use ground turkey rather than the richer beef/veal/pork combo.  But you know, it makes my dish a bit easier, more affordable and somewhat healthier.  So be it.  I don’t really have a recipe for this...I kind of just wing it since I’ve been making it for so long, but I’ve outlined my basics below in case you do want to follow along:
Zazu Restaurant & Farm

As promised, it’s time to tell you all about our fabulous dinner we had at the end of our Wine Road Barrel Tasting day up in wine country.  Now, if you’re a regular reader you know that I don’t review restaurants very often but when they really blow me away, I feel it’s my foodie obligation to share...and Zazu Restaurant & Farm did just that!

How would I summarize the Zazu philosiphy?  Nightly changing menus inspired by American classics, authentic, rustic Italian cuisine and focused on what is local (often their own farm!) and in season.  Re-reading that sentence, makes Zazu sound a bit pretentious but in fact it’s quite the opposite their dishes and ambience are comfortable, uncomplicated and perfectly suited for the amazing wine that surrounds their location in every direction.  Next time you’re up in Sonoma County give Zazu a try....they’re right off the 101 so a quick and easy detour on your way to or from the wineries, I promise you’ll be back a second and third time!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter & Bittersweet Chocolate

The one big, perfect ravioli!

This is one of our favorite pasta recipes...we’ve been making it since 2005 when I think I first saw it on Michael Chiarello’s then Food Network Show.  Over the past years though it has become even better because we’ve started making homemade pasta (with my fancy Kitchen Aid attachment...makes homemade pasta so easy!  We honestly never buy any flat noodled dry pasta anymore). But don’t fear, you certainly don’t have to go that far to make this dish a winner, feel free to buy pasta sheets.  The filling is sweet, rich and complex while the sage butter sauce is rich and savory (put lots more sage than it calls for if you like sage...it’s so yummy in this dish).  And then finishing it off with shavings of bittersweet chocolate is pure genius!
Giada’s Osso Bucco with Cheesy Polenta

So Osso Bucco seems like something that shouldn’t be on a regular recipe rotation, but ever since I first made this recipe two New Years Eve’s ago I’m looking for every excuse I can to make it again!  And Giada's Cheesy Polenta, while certainly not healthy, is absolutely to die for! This Sunday I'm using the excuse of welcoming Christian’s mom here after she flies in from Massachusetts to make this indulgent dish again.
Balsamic Chicken, Polenta & Rapini

I stumbled upon this Balsamic chicken recipe (Giada’s) when making a spread for my best friend’s bachelorette party, but it was so yummy that I have a hard time keeping it to chicken drummett appetizers as it calls for and instead have started making it as a regular chicken dinner with either full-size drumsticks or chicken breasts.

When it comes to the polenta, Giada’s cheesy polenta is the absolute best, but if you’re trying to be healthy I would suggest you simply make it according to the directions on your polenta package and add a touch of cream/cheese/butter to taste along with some fresh herbs. Lastly, Rapini (or broccoli raab) is our favorite vegetable lately...we usually roast it at high heat with grape tomatoes and olive oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper for about 15 minutes...nutty, a bit crunchy and so delicious!    
Gnocchi with Radicchio, Pancetta, Pine Nuts & Rosemary
I love making gnocchi...especially on a cloudy Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine in hand, fun and relaxing.  The one trick is that you really do need a potato ricer to get the gnocchi to be the right consistency.  I’ve tried other methods and shortcuts before, but finally had to give in and get a potato ricer and it’s worth it (great for uber-creamy mashed potatoes as well!).  This flavors in this recipe from the December 2010 Bon Appéitt are divine...but I don’t know how you go wrong with pancetta and rosemary.