The stunning rabbit liver appetizer at the Western Room inside Rancho Nicasio.
You’ll be excused if you’ve never been to Rancho Nicasio in Marin before.
The out-of-the-way roadhouse and live music venue may not have been on most people’s radar before. But it sure is now.
That’s because about four months ago, it added a new chef.
Not just any chef. But Ron Siegel, former executive chef of Michael Mina Restaurant in San Francisco, who previously headed Masa’s in San Francisco and Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco. And the first American-born chef to beat an Iron Chef on the original Japanese TV cooking competition.
Chef Max Brown who has been at Rancho Nicasio for 18 years since his father Bob Brown, former manager of Pablo Cruise and Huey Lewis & The News, bought the property is still there. He still oversees the main dining room and the massive backyard barbecue festivities.
The unassuming facade of Rancho Nicasio, built in 1941.
The Western Room.
But Siegel now serves up an entirely separate menu in the Western Room inside the rustic Rancho Nicasio.
An easy fish dish full of the haunting flavors of saffron, preserved lemon, and sweet paprika.
I remember eating at Joyce Goldstein’s game-changing Square One restaurant in San Francisco.
My best friend and I had saved up our money to dine there, having heard how Goldstein was pushing the envelope of Mediterranean cuisine, which back then was largely relegated to Italian fare. Instead, she expanded greatly upon that, serving up the flavors of Morocco, Turkey, and beyond.
The restaurant did not disappoint. The earthy spices were new to my palate then, and thoroughly captivated me.
So when I received a review copy of her newest cookbook, “The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home” (University of California Press), I got doubly excited when I spied a recipe for “Fish with Charmoula.”
As Goldstein writes in the book, quite a few diners at Square One took to calling her the “Queen of Charmoula” because this signature fish dish was often on the menu.
Golden Island Jerky’s Korean Barbecue (front) and Kung Pao (back) varieties.
Beef jerky is not normally a go-to snack for me.
But I admit that when I received samples of Golden Island Jerky, I found myself coming back to them again and again, especially after a brutal spinning class at the gym.
Yes, leave it to me to reach not for a banana after a sweaty workout, but beef jerky.
But when you’re in need of a protein pick-me-up with a bit of salt and a lot of flavor, it hits the spot.
Golden Island originated in Taiwan in 1952. When the family immigrated to the United States in 1981, it started producing Asian meat products. In 2007, it debuted its jerky products.
A canned tuna you can feel good about eating.
Our love affair with canned tuna has ebbed and flowed over the years.
Beset by worries about mercury levels and unintended bycatch deaths of dolphins, Americans have cut back on their consumption recently. Still, it’s a good bet that there’s still a tin or two in our cupboards on a fairly regular basis because it’s hard to beat the convenience and versatility of the product.
Sausalito’s Safe Catch Elite Tuna, though, makes it easier for us to enjoy canned tuna with fewer worries.
Every tuna (albacore and skipjack) used by the company is tested for mercury, ensuring a limit of 0.1 parts per million which it touts is 10 times stricter than the FDA action limit. The tuna are wild, sustainably-caught, and additive-free. The fish are packed in BPA-free cans without any added water, oil or preservatives. In fact, the ingredients label on the can is as short as can be — just tuna and salt. You don’t even need to drain the can when you open it because there’s very little liquid in it.
Whether topped with jam or fresh fruit, these little tartlets are irresistible.
Anya Fernald is probably best known for being the co-founder and CEO of Belcampo Meat Co., the world’s largest sustainable meat company, which owns everything from its animals to its own slaughterhouse to its own stores and restaurants where its meat is sold.
But leave it to me to get a review copy of her new cookbook “Home Cooked: Essential Recipes For A New Way To Cook” (Ten Speed Press), and to not make a meat-focused recipe, but a dessert one instead.
Because, yes, that’s how my sweet tooth rolls.
That’s not to say the book isn’t filled with tantalizing carnivore dishes. Having had the pleasure of eating Belcampo’s fare on a couple of occasions, I can attest that you taste the impeccable quality of the meat from the get-go. Because Belcampo raises its own animals, it makes a point to use every part so that nothing goes to waste. The recipes reflect that in everything from “Seared Lamb Heart Crudo” to “Chicken Hearts Cooked in Brown Butter” to “Toma Cheese with Green Herbs” to “Pork & Pepperoncino Sausage.”
But when Fernald writes in the book that “Jam Tartlets” is one of her most requested recipes, how could I resist?