Commonwealth – That Time We Ordered the Entire Menu

This year, I maximized celebrating my birthday by taking advantage of the entire month. With the expenses of a sick pup and then a new pup the last several months, we hadn’t gone out for a fancy meal in awhile. Using my birthday month as an excuse, we went to not just one, but two, in the week following my birthday. The sister, her boyfriend, and our cousin joined us at Commonwealth in The Mission. A friend had started her externship there after finishing cooking school, so I wanted to show support and swing by.

Since we opted out of the tasting menu, it was recommended that each person select three dishes each. There were five of us and 11 dishes on the regular menu, so we basically went with one of each and doubled up on a few of the smaller items.

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Housemade pear and star anise soda and amuse bouches

Commonwealth – Cold Plates

The menu is segmented into three sections. The first section features the cold dishes. Here is where we ordered everything and then doubled up on the scallop crudo and clams.

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(L): asian pear, sunflower seed granola, fermented apple, fromage blanc, kohlrabi, honey
(R): clams, shelling beans, shaved turnip, meyer lemon kosho, eucalyptus and hop broth

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(L): scallop crudo, cauliflower pudding, popcorn powder, kale juice, fennel, prickly ash leaf
(R): allium panna cotta, smoked mushrooms, pickled scallions, mizuna, lovage, pine oil

While I had thought my favorite would have been the scallop because I LOVE SCALLOP CRUDO, it was unfortunately covered in one of my least desired flavors – wasabi/horseradish. I scanned the menu again to check the components of the dish, but it seems even though I had watched out for it, this one managed to slip by. Fortunately, it was the only dish that elicited such a response from me. My favorite of the four ended up being the smoked mushrooms.

Commonwealth – Hot Plates

The second section of the menu features warm dishes. Each dish really stood out on its own, and to pick a favorite would be like asking a mother to choose a favorite child.

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(L): chanterelle mushrooms, tapioca pudding, gem lettuce, ginger, sorrel, cured egg yolk
(R): charred cabbage, trout roe, sprouting broccoli, whipped tofu, sea beans, oyster plant

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(L): jerusalem artichoke, potato, nettles, charred and pickled onions, black truffle froth
(R): squid and pork belly, soft cooked egg, hay smoked potato, fine herbs, yuzu aioli

Commonwealth – Hearty Plates

The third and final section of the menu features heartier warm dishes. Unlike the first two types of dishes, we were able to get in a few more bites of each plate. Or perhaps we were filling up, so it seemed like there was more to consume? Who knows?

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(L): hake, shishito peppers, seaweed brioche, cucumber, tomato broth, elderflower vinegar
(M): hen, roasted fig, farro verde, anchovy, bacon cracker, liver mousse, fermented beet
(R): grilled pork, rutabagas cooked in beeswax, chicories, persimmons leather, maple syrup

Commonwealth – Desserts

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After a celery sorbet palate cleanser, we were ready to tackle dessert. Again, one of each! I didn’t grab a menu, so I don’t have their names to document – OOPS. They were all delicious, and I’m glad I was able to share the entire experience with family and friends.

Our reservations were at 5:30, and we were out of there with enough time to catch the end of the Giants/Royals game. Parking is available in their small lot for $5 (added to your bill), and thankfully they let us park there when we wandered out after dinner looking for a bar with the game on.

The cherry on top of it all – we won that night!

Commonwealth on Urbanspoon

Fresh Summit Recap

October has been a fun-filled month with every weekend spent away from home. The first two weekends, I was in New Mexico. The following weekend Anaheim, and just this past weekend Alcatraz. More on those other weekends later!

Fresh SummitMid-October, I was lucky enough to be selected to participate as a member of Team Fresh Summit, a group of bloggers organized by Kitchen PLAY to attend the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit Convention & Expo. As a participant in Team Fresh Summit, I attended the conference in Anaheim, worked with several brands to bring attention to them and the event through social media. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you would have noticed all the tagging of #TeamFreshSummit that weekend.

With over 22,400 attendees at Fresh Summit from all segments of the produce/floral supply chain, it was an incredible weekend of learning, sampling, and getting the “behind the scenes” look of the produce industry. Every morning started bright and early at the conference, and in the evenings, I had a chance to bond with the other bloggers of Team Fresh Summit.

Friday at Fresh Summit

Fresh SummitFriday was all about the educational sessions and the Fresh Ideas in Action Reception. There were a handful of tracks and various sessions in each track – Global Connections, Science & Technology, Talent Management, and Floral. I attended Floral Trends: Color is Key and Product Transparency Meets Fresh Produce, both of which offered some great takeaways even though I am not in the Produce Marketing industry.

In the afternoon, we attended the Fresh Ideas in Action Reception where we sampled recipes from the top ten finalists in the Sensory Experience Contest. The finalists were pre-selected by buyer judges and the winners were selected by a panel of buyers (including Kitchen PLAY’s Casey Benedict) and local youth.

Buyers’ Choice Winner: Wholesum Family Farms: WHOLESUM HARVEST® Eggplant Vegetable Balls with Roma Tomato Sauce

Kids’ Choice Winner: Wish Farms: Wish Farms Strawberry Blueberry Hazelnut Chocolate Flatbread

We wrapped up Friday at the Welcoming Reception where we got a chance to sample from local food trucks and local brewers. Some of the Team Fresh Summit crew also made a trip to Downtown Disney for beignets and souvenirs!

Saturday/Sunday at Fresh Summit

The rest of the convention was dedicated to expo time and starting off each of those days with a little inspiration. Friday morning, we heard from Jeremy Gutsche of TrendHunter.com. He taught us about the Patterns of Opportunity (Acceleration, Convergence, Reduction, Redirect, Circular, Divergence), giving incredibly vivid examples of each. Saturday morning, Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia challenged attendees to rethink their marketing strategy, regardless of where in the produce industry they are. He emphasized that in this day and age, every company is a media company.

With that in mind, it was surprising to see how few exhibitors at Fresh Summit incorporated social media into their PMA experience or day-to-day marketing. Team Fresh Summit was tweeting and Instagramming like crazy, sharing the brands and products we found on the floor.

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The expo floor was quite the experience. At times, it was a little overwhelming because of the sheer size of the expo floor. So many booths, so many people, so many products.

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Thankfully, I had a wonderful team of blogger friends to hang out with all weekend. It was an incredibly inclusive group, and any time that any of us felt like we needed a buddy to walk around with on the expo floor, we just sent out a bat signal and someone would answer. Also, was able to grab a few drinks at Noble Ale Works nearby with a few team members – yay beer lovers!

Thanks for a great weekend, Team Fresh Summit:

Team Fresh Summit

Photo courtesy of Carly Morgan

Team Fresh Summit 2014:
Beth @ OMG Yummy
Carly @ Ever Clever Mom
Cathy @ Noble Pig
Christina @ Teenie Cakes
Heather @ Real: The Kitchen and Beyond
Jason @ Modernist Cooking Made Easy
Lori @ Fake Food Free
Laura @ Hey, What’s For Dinner Mom?
Megan @ Stetted
Mimi @ Mimi Avocado
Rachel @ Trampling Rose

And of course, our fearless leader, Casey @ Kitchen PLAY!

Disclosure: While I received compensation for my participation in Team Fresh Summit at the PMA Fresh Summit Conference and Expo, all thoughts, opinions, and words are my own. Thank you to the following sponsors: Valley Fig Growers, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Gourmet Garden Herbs & Spices, HBF International (Hurst’s Berries), Mucci Farms, National Watermelon Promotion Board, Nutraleaf.

September 2014 in Pictures

September, and seemingly every month towards the end of the year, has flown by, and I’m not remembering to take a daily photo. Instead, it comes in spurts. I’ll take a bunch of photos one day and then nothing for a few. It all evens out, I suppose. I still have a photo a day to document once I write up a blog post about my #365infocus project.

September started out with a trip to Yosemite. I came back from a weekend with Trail Mavens on the 1st of the month. I camped, hiked, and learned some basic outdoors skills with a bunch of awesome women. It was a fun experience, and I look forward to my next trip with the group.

September 2014 in Pictures

The following weekend, there was a wine club party with puppies for adoption. We tasted wine, introduced Fresca to the winery, and played with the puppies.

September 2014 in Pictures

September also sparked some organization. I wrote about cleaning up the hallway closet (a proud moment), which led to us finding a plumbing problem in the kitchen (dreadful moment). Everything is in order now, and even the area under the kitchen sink is organized.

We also started Fresca on a BarkBox subscription (link is a referral). She goes through the toys in minutes because of her gnawing habit, but it’s been a fun way to introduce her (and us) to different pet brands.

September 2014 in Pictures

The hallway closet and kitchen sink cabinet were not the only areas that I worked on organizing. My closet got a bit of an overhaul when we decided to switch up our bedroom. My work clothing is easier to manage now that I have it on a rolling cart. It’s all out in the open, and I can’t make too much of a mess.

September 2014 in Pictures

I snuck in a few photos from October’s trip to New Mexico since I didn’t take as many photos as I needed for September. Definitely didn’t hit all 30, even though there were plenty of photo opportunities. September was a fun month of organizing, volunteering around the city, and spending time with friends – a great way to kick off my favorite season.

Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour [Giveaway]

Ultimate Beer Lover's Happy HourOktoberfest officially comes to an end this week, but that doesn’t mean I won’t find an excuse to prolong the beer festivities. We are on our way to New Mexico, and the plan is to spend our time (in between hiking and admiring hot air balloons) checking out what’s on tap locally AND hitting up the New Mexico Brew Fest!

On the topic of beer, I am all about finding the proper beer bites to soak it all up. In John Schlimm’s latest book, The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour, he shares ideas for pairings – bar bites, salsas/dips, tapas and more. I was sent a copy to peruse. The book arrived only yesterday, so I haven’t had much time to look it over. Schlimm includes descriptions of different beer types, as well as a seasonal beer chart, but he makes it pretty clear that his “rule of thumb is: drink what you want, when you want it!”

While most of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan, I was impressed with the creativity of the recipes. I do love my veggies, but I have plenty of room in my stomach for meat and fish. Depending on my mood, I might follow the recipes to a tee or change up a few things here and there.

With over 325 recipes and several beer pairing ideas for each recipe, you’re bound to find something you will like. If you’d like to win a copy of The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour and other goodies, enter the giveaway below!

Here are two examples from the book of suggested pairings for Oktoberfest beers:

Hippie Cayenne Sourdough Pretzels

Pair with: Oktoberfest, Pale Lager, Pilsner

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s, or to taste
2 teaspoon mace
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
1 (1-ounce) packet dry vegetable soup mix
2 dashes Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce or Tabasco sauce, or more to taste
1 teaspoon molasses
8 droplets liquid smoke, or to taste (search Colgin.com for plant-based liquid smoke flavors)
20 ounces sourdough pretzels

Preheat 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the margarine in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, mace, lime juice, vegetable soup mix, hot sauce, molasses, and liquid smoke. Heat until just bubbly.

Using tongs, dip the pretzels in the mixture, one at a time, coating them completely, and place them on the baking sheet. Let the pretzels rest for 15 minutes, then bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Turn off the oven, and let the pretzels cool there thoroughly, for 90 minutes or so. Serve the pretzels or store them in an airtight container lined with paper towels for up to a week.

Yields about 4 cups

Flying Buffalo at the Tap Pizza

Pair with: American or English Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Oktoberfest

1⁄2 cup ketchup
1⁄4 cup Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup chopped yellow onion
8 ounces seitan, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes, or tofu, pressed drained, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (OR MEAT)
2 cups quartered cremini mushrooms
1 (12-inch) prebaked pizza crust
1 1⁄2 cups arugula or spinach, julienned
2 carrots, shredded
1⁄2 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tomatoes, cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices

Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine the ketchup, hot sauce, and liquid smoke in a small bowl, stirring well. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the seitan and mushrooms, and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft. Remove from the heat. Combine the seitan mixture and ketchup mixture in a medium-size bowl, mixing gently to coat well.

Spread the seitan mixture over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crisp. Top with the arugula, carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes before serving.

Yields 1 pizza or 8 to 10 slices

Either of those sound good to you?

There are also sections in the book with Beer Cocktails, Beer Chuggers, Beer Shots, Shooters & Chasers. Beer cocktails seem intriguing, while the beer chuggers and shots scare me a little bit. I can’t party like I’m 22 anymore!

Ultimate Beer Lover’s Oktoberfest Prize Pack Giveaway

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Weekend Hike – Lake Lagunitas (aka Fresca’s First Hike)

One of the highlights of living in San Francisco is its proximity to “ALL THE THINGS.” Want to go on a short hike? You can hop right to it, and that’s exactly what we did several weekends ago. We went about an hour outside of San Francisco to Lake Lagunitas in Marin.

Lake Lagunitas

I’d read about Lake Lagunitas in a Weekend Sherpa email and made a mental note of it as being low-key and dog-friendly. Lake Lagunitas is the smallest lake in the Mt. Tamalpais watershed, and for $8, you gain access to the parking lot, the picnic area, and some easy hiking. We had Saturday morning free, so we packed up some water and dog treats and were on our way for Fresca’s first official hike.

Lake Lagunitas

With the drought, the water level was a bit low, and it looked like the lake had an algae problem. Still, it was good to get outside. The weather was nice (a little hot out of the shade), the sun was out (we brought sunscreen!), and we were moving our bodies.

Fresca seems to be pretty good on leash, which is why I jumped at the chance to take her on a hike. Sasha was never so great on leash, and that limited the number of places we could take her since she preferred being off-leash.

While the leash isn’t a problem for Fresca, she has a tendency to stick her snout to the floor looking for goodies to chew on. We call this “vacuum mode.” Unfortunately, her definition of “goodies” also includes dirt, bark and grass.

Lake Lagunitas

Lake Lagunitas

We tried distracting her by handpicking other items for her to hold onto, like giant sticks or even her water bowl. It worked for a little bit, at least until she started dropping her bowl off the edge of the path.

Lake LagunitasAfter the 1.5 mile loop around the lake, we stopped in at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery in Fairfax. Even though our hike wasn’t particularly strenuous, shrimp tacos, a pulled pork sandwich and beer definitely hit the spot afterward. They also have a front patio area where dogs are welcome, and they made sure Fresca stayed hydrated.

It’s hard to believe that it is already October. My weekends are pretty full this month, so I am hoping to fit in more hiking for the rest of the year and through 2015! If you live in California and enjoy the outdoors, I’d definitely recommend subscribing to Weekend Sherpa. It’s a great resource, and reading it always makes me want to go outside.