The Happy Cooker

A Special Dinner at Remedy’s Tavern

By Mary Frederiksen

On September 16, 2015 we attended the second annual R.E.D. Loyalty “Destination Dinner” at Remedy’s Tavern in Henderson, Nevada. R.E.D. stands for Remedy’s, Elixir, and Distill, a chain of sports pubs that also have a dedicated smoke-free dining room.

The five-course meal was hand crafted by Executive Chef, Roy Angeles.

The price to the public was $55 but, as loyalty members, we received a
special discount of $25 for having previously spent at least $500 in any of the R.E.D. locations. That made our price for this event $30/person, including tax!

What a wonderful deal! The menu was New American Fusion and included two drinks per person (wine, beer, or cocktail) off of the restaurant’s drink list. Two glasses of a delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand was nearly the cost of the dinner!

But make no mistake, the five courses were not your typical pub grub.

The first course was seared ahi carpaccio with mixed greens, dressed with a vinaigrette. It was topped with jalapeño tempura matchsticks and a drizzle of mango sauce. We refrained from licking the plates (barely) and gave the appetizer an A+.

The next offering was called “Mediterranean Salad Goes American”. It consisted of fresh mixed salad greens tossed with a variety of gourmet olives, small cubed feta cheese, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and fresh garlic. The dressing was a lovely vinaigrette . The salad items were cut to a perfect bite size and we greatly appreciated the lack of pits in the deli-style olives. Another solid A.

Course three was four sweet and spicy chicken wing “lollipops” served over a bed of mashed red potatoes. I enjoyed the less crispy skin and the milder use of spice, while my hubby would have liked a more crispy skin and more spice. You say “to-may-to,” I say “to-mah-to.” The potatoes were seasoned well and complemented the wings. This was more traditional pub food, but a solid B.

The fourth course consisted of a 6-oz filet of beef done “Oscar” style with bearnaise sauce, topped with shredded crab meat, served with grilled asparagus spears and roasted sliced fingerling potatoes delightfully seasoned with rosemary/Italian spices. A hearty dish to be sure, but the meat wasn’t up to the quality found in the other dishes. B-

The dessert course was perhaps one of the finest desserts I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. It was a Tiramisu Cheesecake that the Chef created. The crust was nicely made, the cheesecake filling divine, and the rich cream topping was perfect. It had all the flavors of traditional tiramisu and we DID lick our plates clean. A+!

Our server was Alexis and she did a wonderful job making sure we had all that we needed.

My sincere thanks to Chef Roy for an excellent dinner! Several of the dishes were worthy of the finest restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip.

I invite you try this dining spot the next time you are in the area. And be sure to join their RED loyalty program!

They are located at: 3265 St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nevada 89052. Phone: 702-982-3026

They are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!

Check out their website for more information: http://remedystavern.com/locations/st-rose-location/

Please like & share:

Aventine Restaurant: A Shining Star in the Valley of the Moon

By Glen and Mary Frederiksen

Coming to the North Coast wine country of California is transformational for us. As soon as we cross any of the bridges that lead us north of the San Francisco Bay, our bodies and minds relax, shedding the cares and worries that come with the workaday world to the south.

While the main attraction is the fabulous wine from any of the 2,000 or so wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties, our later, non-poverty-stricken years have found us increasingly driven to, and seeking out, the wonderful cuisine of the region.

We have dined at dozens of fine dining establishments in the cities of Napa, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga in the Napa Valley. On the Sonoma side, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa have likewise had their share of fine eateries.

One area that has, in the past, been a flyover zone for great cuisine (in our opinion) was the city of Sonoma and the nearby Valley of the Moon. Despite a beautiful central square, Sonoma was more about cafes and bistros than formal haute cuisine.

With the arrival of Aventine, located just outside of Sonoma at the gateway to the Valley of the Moon, all that has changed. The name of the restaurant is from one of the seven hills upon which Rome was founded. Located in a 175 year old building that once was a grist mill, this upscale Italian restaurant is overseen by Chef Adolfo Veronese. He began his culinary journey growing up in his father’s San Francisco restaurant, Osteria Romano. After formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Veronese worked for a number of highly regarded establishments, including Drago, Valentino, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining, and TAO’s Lavo Restaurant and Nightclub in Las Vegas.

In 2009, Veronese returned to his home town of San Francisco (his grandfather was Mayor Joseph L. Alioto), and has pursued his uncompromising passion for authentic Italian, Mediterranean, and Californian food through the Aventine Hospitality group.

Aventine General Manager Fabiano Ramaci presides over the dining room, welcoming guests and seeing to their every need. As if his duties at the restaurant weren’t enough, Ramaci is an accomplished winemaker, owning Mora Estates Winery. He specializes in – what else? – Italian varietals.

"Hello, my name is Fabiano Ramaci. Prepare to dine."

“Hello, my name is Fabiano Ramaci. Prepare to dine.”

On the night of our visit, four of us enjoyed a sampling of signature dishes from the Aventine menu. The food was incredible! Below, Mary has written a summary of the dishes served, with descriptors and tasting notes.

Mary here. The dishes we were served were memorable and delicious. Here are a few notes about each dish.

Sometimes when I dine at an upscale restaurant where I know the Chef will be offering many dishes, I do not eat the bread course at the beginning of the meal. This night, it would have been a mistake. Please be aware that the bread served at Aventine is not to be “skipped”. It was soft, moist, flavorful and addicting – perfect for sopping up the sauces that accompanied several of the dishes. It was served with a Port Butter that was exceptionally tasty. If they sold this bread and butter in the restaurant lobby, I would have purchased a loaf and a pound of the butter to take home.

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Our next course was the Margherita Pizza. The dish was classic mozzarella, tomato and basil with a perfect balance and freshness. This could be a meal by itself.

Gamberoni

Gamberoni

Gamberoni (jumbo shrimp) was our antipasti course. The prawns were wrapped in prosciutto and sautéed, with sage and a balsamic glaze. Firm but not overcooked, they were so fresh and tasty!

Lasagna al Forno

Lasagna al Forno

The Lasagna Al Forno (al forno means any dish that is baked in an oven) was expertly prepared with a combination of beef, veal, pork, ragu, creamy béchamel, mozzarella, parmigiano and, instead of nutmeg, Chef Veronese used cinnamon. A nice touch and a well-balanced dish.

Ravioli di Formaggio

Ravioli di Formaggio

A signature dish of Chef Adolfo Veronese followed and this was my favorite of the evening. This dish has made it to “My Last Meal on Earth” menu. The Raviolo Di Fromaggio contained peas, wild mushrooms, white wine sauce and shaved parmigiano. Black pepper accented the rich and yummy entrée of perfectly cooked raviolois. When I next return to Aventine, this will be my main course. Thank you, Chef!!

Branzino

Branzino

Branzino (sea bass) was the next course. This whole grilled European Striped Sea Bass, infused with rosemary and lemon, was so fresh it tasted like it had just been pulled from the sea. It was accompanied by roasted peewee potatoes, roasted vegetables, oregano and a wonderfully flavorful citrus vinaigrette. WOW!

Scottadito

Scottadito

Scottadito was next. In Italian, the word scottadito means “burned fingers.” This dish is so named because the lamb chops are so delicious that you can’t resist eating them sizzling hot, straight from the grill and burning your fingers. Chef used grilled Superior Farms lamb chops with sides of sautéed greens, fingerling potato chips and a balsamic mint reduction sauce. Mary “had a little lamb” and she was a very happy diner.

Lamb Shank

Lamb Shank

Lamb Shank with Lentils in an Amarone Sauce was a special dish that was not on the menu. Pork shank is the on-the-menu dish, but it had already sold out for the evening. It was beautifully presented and prepared, although some at the table felt the flavor a bit too strong.

Funghi

Funghi

For the vegetable course, called Contorni, the chef offered Funghi, a dish of sautéed seasonal mushrooms, roasted garlic and Italian parsley. The flavors “popped,” with a spicy impression on the palate. It was savory and delicious.

Caramel Budino

Caramel Budino

The final two dishes were desserts. Budino is defined as any type of soft, sweet dessert thickened — usually with flour — and baked, boiled or steamed. The one we were served contained chocolate-pecan crumble, salted caramel and soft whipped cream. It was delicious! I wanted to lick the bowl but, because four of us were sharing, I refrained. It was creamy, fresh and light, with a perfect sweet crunch from the crumble.

Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake

Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake

Finally, a warm flourless chocolate cake arrived. It, too, had salted caramel and was served with a vanilla gelato. Sadly, there were a few bites left in the dish but that was only because we had run out of room! I refrained from asking for a to-go box for the remaining dessert.

Compliments to Chef Veronese and all the staff who served us! It was a dining experience I will not soon forget.

Aventine
14301 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 934-8912
http://glenellen.aventinehospitality.com/

Please like & share:

A Warm Entrée for the Winter Weather

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

(Editor’s note: This recipe was first published in the March 1999 issue of the High Desert Wine Explorers newsletter)

Lately all I see on the television newscasts are stories about the winter weather. It is winter but somehow the snowstorms and cold temperatures are news worthy. It is wonderful not to live in the inclement conditions in the north and the east. I did that when I lived in Ohio for the first 25 years of my life… That was quite enough for me. Once I found out there was better weather elsewhere, I was on the move.

If you are in an area where the weather is very frigid and stormy, this recipe may be just the thing to chase away the cold and gloom. It is a hearty dish and has that “stick to your ribs” quality that your parents told you about. Add a loaf of crusty bread and perhaps a salad to the meal and you will soon forget the storms and cold around you.

FETTUCCINE WITH GORGONZOLA AND WALNUTS

Ingredients:

½ cup of walnuts, broken
1 cup of heavy cream
8 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
A pinch of nutmeg
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces fresh (or 8 ounces dried) fettuccine, cooked and drained
Grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Heat a small skillet over low heat. Stir in the walnuts. Toast gently until fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream until hot, but not boiling. Stir in the Gorgonzola until melted and the sauce is creamy. Add the nutmeg and the pepper.

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions and drain.

Toss the fettuccine with the sauce, sprinkle with toasted walnuts and serve with the grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Please like & share:

Bunn Thai Bistro in Grover Beach, California

Bunn Thai Bistro

Bunn Thai Bistro

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

The past two summers, we have visited Nipomo, California for an extended stay vacation. During the summer months, this town offers cool weather with daytime highs in the 70s. This is a vast improvement over our hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, where daytime highs are in the low 100s to 110+.

While much of our time is spent pursuing wine related activities, we have found time to discover new restaurants. We dined at BUNN THAI BISTRO last summer toward the end of our vacation and loved it! We were delighted to see that, this year, it is still going strong with an even larger following among locals and visitors alike. It is a healthy Thai and Asian fusion eatery. They use fresh local ingredients whenever possible and they never use MSG. The menu offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. They use only free range, hormone-free, white meat chicken and organic tofu, assuring there are no synthetic or genetically modified products. If you have any other special dietary needs, let them know, and they will do their best to accommodate you.

Sayam, Arna, and Tommy Buraparat

Sayam, Arna, and Tommy Buraparat

Their menu is extensive and, in my opinion, very reasonably priced. The dishes are beautifully presented with all the vegetables artfully cut and perfectly cooked.

Sawade Angel painted by owner's niece.

Sawade Angel painted by owner’s niece.

When you dine-in, you are greeted by a beautiful painting done by the owner’s niece. The painting is of the Sawade Angel. As I understand, she greets all guests with a respectful friendship that invites you to share in the family’s warm hospitality.

Every dish we have ordered there has been delicious. The flavors are fresh, clean and very aromatic. We have enjoyed all the traditional Thai flavors without the “non-edible” bits of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, etc. My favorites include Mar Hor and all of the fresh rolls (strawberry, mango or avocado) on their appetizer menu. The soups are wonderful with full flavors. They offer a wide variety of fish dishes that include salmon, tilapia and basa in a choice of 8 different sauces. There are 17 different stir-fry entrees on this extensive menu, including all the Thai Classics. Six fried rice dishes are offered and the ones we have tried are creative and filling enough to be a main entree.

The dining room at Bunn Thai Bistro

The dining room at Bunn Thai Bistro

They are open everyday except Wednesday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Dinner is served from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Bunn Thai Bistro
968 W. Grand Ave.
Grover Beach, Calif. 93433
(805) 473-2824

http://www.bunnthaibistro.com

Please like & share:

A Hearty Pasta Dish

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

(Editor’s Note: This recipe was first published in the September, 1998 issue of the High Desert Wine Explorer Newsletter)

One of the joys of life is to have delicious food prepared for you. This could be by a restaurant chef, by a loved one at home, or while visiting good friends. This recipe was prepared for me when I visited a long time friend and her family in the late 1990s. They welcomed me into their home and we spent the evening dining on her delicious meal and playing Trivial Pursuits around the family table. It was a great night. Every time I prepare this dish, I fondly recall the generosity and hospitality I enjoyed with these dear friends.

CHICKEN AND LINGUINE

Ingredients:

½ cup butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 (or more) cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon dry basil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 chicken thighs or 6 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
Two ten ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
8 ounces linguine
Boiling, salted water
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 small oranges (unpeeled), quartered

Method:

In a large baking pan, melt the butter in a 400-degree oven. Stir onion, garlic, basil and red pepper into butter. Place the chicken skin side down in the butter mixture. Turn the chicken to skin side up and bake uncovered until the meat near the bone is no longer pink, about 30-40 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, thaw and heat the spinach in a pan on the stove. Do not overcook it. Just thaw and warm, then drain the spinach and set aside.

Ten minutes before the chicken is done, cook the linguine until it is al dente. Drain.

When the chicken is done, lift it from the pan and stir to scrape the browned bits free. Add the pasta and cheese and toss to mix. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. On each of the dinner plates, place a generous portion of pasta, followed by the warmed spinich. Top the pasta with the chicken and garnish with the orange slice. Before eating, squeeze the juice of the orange over the dish and enjoy!

Please like & share:

This Dessert Will Drive You Bananas!

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

I fondly remember the day I first tasted this dessert. It was served at an office potluck and I fell in love with it. I requested the recipe from my co-worker and she was kind enough to share it with me. The ingredients are easy to find and the recipe is very easy to follow. The hard part about this dish is finding the extra time to work off the calories!

If you are a banana lover and are looking for a rich, tasty and fun dessert that is easy to prepare, this is it. We have decorated the top for many celebrations such as birthdays and holidays. Every time it is served, I am asked for the recipe, so I have a number of printed copies tucked in my recipe folder. Try it and see if your guests love it as much as we do. Enjoy!

BANANA SUPREME

Ingredients:

2 cups crushed Nilla Wafers
1 stick of butter, melted
2 sticks of butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
5 large bananas, sliced
1 large can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 large container of Cool Whip, thawed

Method:

Combine the first two ingredients and press into the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch glass dish. Chill in the refrigerator until you prepare the next layer.
Place the next three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on high with the beaters for at least 15 minutes. The cream will be a light golden color when it is ready. Carefully spread this mixture over the Nilla Wafer crust.

Slice five bananas and layer them over the cream layer.
Next, carefully layer the crushed pineapple over the banana layer. Top with the Cool Whip. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Please like & share:

This Dessert Will Drive You Bananas!

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

I fondly remember the day I first tasted this dessert. It was served at an office potluck and I fell in love with it. I requested the recipe from my co-worker and she was kind enough to share it with me. The ingredients are easy to find and the recipe is very easy to follow. The hard part about this dish, is finding the extra time to work off the calories!

If you are a banana lover and are looking for a rich, tasty and fun dessert that is easy to prepare, this is it. We have decorated the top for many celebrations such as birthdays and holidays. Every time I serve it, I am asked for the recipe, so I have a number of printed copies tucked in my recipe folder. Try it and see if your guests love it as much as we do. Enjoy!

BANANA SUPREME

Ingredients:

2 cups crushed Nilla Wafers
1 stick of butter, melted
2 sticks of butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
5 large bananas, sliced
1 large can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 large container of Cool Whip, thawed

Method:

Combine the first two ingredients and press into the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch glass dish. Chill in the refrigerator until you prepare the next layer.
Place the next three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on high with the beaters for at least 15 minutes. The cream will be a light golden color when it is ready. Carefully spread this mixture over the Nilla Wafer crust.

Slice five bananas and layer them over the cream layer.
Next, carefully layer the crushed pineapple over the banana layer. Top with the Cool Whip. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

(This recipe was originally published in the High Desert Wine Emporium newsletter in 1998)

Please like & share:

Some Appetizers You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

(Editor’s Note: These recipes were first published in the High Desert Wine Explorers Newsletter in July, 1998)

I do love the taste of curry. It is not a spice I grew up with, so when I first tasted it in dishes, it intrigued and delighted me. The standard curry powder or paste usually contains a number of spices: coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and chili peppers. But depending on the region and recipe, it can also contain garlic, ginger, fennel seed, caraway seed, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, cardamom, nutmeg and/or black pepper.

Many cultures and regions of the world use curry in their dishes and all of them are delicious and fascinating. The following two recipes use curry powder and though they are markedly different in the final product, you can still taste the curry influence.

BLACK OLIVE CANAPES

Ingredients:

1 and ½ cups of black olives, minced
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced onion
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 baguette of crusty French bread

Method:

Preheat broiler to 500 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Cut bread in half lengthwise and spread the mixture on the cut surfaces. Broil the bread until the spread is bubbly and golden in color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and slice into serving size pieces. Enjoy!

CRUNCHY CURRIED COLE SLAW

Ingredients:

One 10-ounce package of frozen green peas
1 and ½ cups of red cabbage, shredded
1 and ½ cups of green cabbage, shredded
¼ cup of sliced green onion

Dressing Ingredients:

¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
¾ cup Spanish peanuts

Method:

In a large bowl, combine peas, cabbages and onion.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients except the peanuts. Combine with the vegetables, toss well and chill at least 3 hours or overnight. Garnish with peanuts at serving time. Enjoy!

Please like & share:

Chada Thai: Impeccable

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

According to the urban dictionary, “chada” refers to someone who is a friend to anyone he meets, tends to keep to himself a little bit, and is generally a good person. I am not sure if this is why the CHADA THAI RESTAURANT is so named, but I will find out on my next visit there. And we will be going to this dining establishment many more times.

Chada Thai and Wine

Chada Thai and Wine

Why? Because it is some of the best Thai food we have savored in a long time. We read about this Asian bistro, established two years ago, in the local publications. It received rave reviews. Now we know why.

The chef and sommelier is Bank Atcharawan. Atcharawan was named a Sommelier of The Year in 2013. Prior to opening his CHADA THAI RESTAURANT, he ran the best German Reisling-based wine program in the country (at Las Vegas’s LOTUS OF SIAM). His wine list at Chada, though much smaller, reflects this knowledge and expertise.

 While the food is outstanding, wine lovers flock to Chada Thai

While the food is outstanding, wine lovers flock to Chada Thai

We started our meal with the Tom Yum Goong soup. The flavors “popped!” The shrimp was fresh, the vegetables tender and the broth contained a perfect balance of the classic Thai flavors without the annoyance of non-edible bits of lemongrass and galanga.

Next, we ordered Masaman Curry with chicken. Only white meat chicken was used with perfectly cooked potatoes, onion and peanuts all enrobed in a rich, thick sauce. I wanted to lick the bowl clean but showed some class by eating every bit with the rice instead.

Panang Beef Curry was our next dish. It had an intriguing combination of sweetness and richness. The meat was perfectly tender and, again, the gravy was thick and rich.

As a side dish, we tried the Thai classic, Cucumber salad. The portion size was very generous. The cucumber, red onion, red pepper and cilantro were in perfect balance with the right amount of acid tang and sugar sweetness serving as a palate cooler to offset the spiciness of the main dishes.

Our final selection was Drunken Noodles Pork. It had an intriguing smokey flavor and was presented on a bed of steamed romaine lettuce. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with red and green bell peppers and Thai basil all in a rich sauce. Stuffed from the other dishes, we had a bit of this dish left over to enjoy at home the next day.

During the meal, we enjoyed a half bottle of 1998 GK Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling-Auslese. Oh My! The wine was the perfect match to Thai food. A staff recommendation, it is one of my all-time favorite Rieslings. Hubby Glen noted that this wine was at its peak with vibrant acidity, showing honeyed pear and apple fruit aromas with spice components. Once in the mouth, it had a creme brûlée overlay that coated the palate and lingered at the finish. Wine Lines rating: 96. Glen let me consume the larger portion of the 375 ml. bottle. What a generous man he is. This is now my new favorite wine!

CHADA THAI is a restaurant that is not to be missed in Las Vegas. This 40-seat venue is beautiful decorated with framed wine labels and a wall of wine display. They are open everyday from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. I recommend reservations – it was crowded on a Monday night.

CHADA THAI restaurant
3400 S. Jones Blvd. #11A,
Las Vegas, NV 89146.
Phone: 702-641-1345.
Their web site is http://www.chadavegas.com

Please like & share:

A Dish to Pair with Chardonnay

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

(Editor’s Note: This was first published in April, 1999 in the High Desert Wine Explorers newsletter)

Sometimes after a busy day at work, it is nice to come home to a delicious meal that is easy to prepare. Such is the case with this recipe. The ingredients are readily available and the preparation time is minimal. Different parts of the chicken can be substituted or combined to change the flavor of the finished product. The ideal match with this dish is, of course, Chardonnay!

LIGHT CHICKEN STEW WITH CHARDONNAY

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 whole chicken legs, skinned
1 cup of chopped green onions
1 cup of sliced carrots
¾ pound of small red potatoes, quartered
1 pound of button mushrooms, quartered
1 cup of Chardonnay
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat oil in a sauté pan and brown the chicken. Add the flour and coat the cooked chicken. Add the green onions, mushrooms and wine and add enough stock to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover the pan and simmer about 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes or so until the vegetables are cooked through and the chicken falls off the bone.

Serve with a nice crusty bread and enjoy!

Please like & share: