Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Red Hot Chile Garden

In my cooking adventures I have become a big fan of Rick Bayless, who won the Top Chef Masters competition with his mastery of Mexican cuisine. I have two of his cookbooks and have made some great food. The mole negro is calling me but
you can't get the needed chiles in local markets. So I am going to grow a chile garden - except you can't seem to get the seeds around here either. Luckily I was recently introduced to The Chile Woman, who grows and ships a whole lotta varieties of chiles. After some dithering I chose the chilhualces and isla mulatos for my mole negro, firey yet reputedly fruity tasting chocolate
scotch bonnet for Jamaican jerk and New Mexico Hatch chile just because it sounds interesting. The Chile Woman starts
shipping in May so hopefully I mailed (yes, mailed) my order in plenty of time to get my chile desires fulfilled. Go to her site and be amazed at the sheer variety of chile plants she purveys. Be forwarned: the plants cost $3.50 apiece and the shipping is expensive. This was definitely a splurge, but chiles are perennial and I plan to save my seeds. Wish me luck!

My request for Valentine's Day was a day trip, not just a meal in a dimly lit restaurant. Since I dawdled we couldn't get a reservation at Taste Restaurant in Plymouth, land of the Shenandoah Valley wineries. Taste, by the way, is a somewhat expensive joint with amazing food in the foothills not far from Sutter Creek. So I suggested that we go to San Jose and visit the Winchester Mystery House (last time I was there I was 11) and Santana Row, a kind of European looking row of shops and restaurants. To my surprise, the Mystery House was only a block from Santana Row so it was so simple. I chose a restaurant
by looking up places on the Row website and decided on Thea Mediterranean Cuisine.

We arrived for lunch; the place was pretty empty. It's decorated like I imagine a Greek Taverna appears, with white walls, open space, big sconces, etc. The warm bread they brought out was sitting on a little pool of herbed olive oil instead of in a basket - soft and indescribably delicious. I had the lamb sliders, 3 on a plate with a fluffy mesclun salad dressed with oil and vinegar. They were fantabulous: seasoned and cooked perfectly and dressed with tzaziki, a garlic cucumber yogurt sauce, and a little avocado. The cute little toy buns were perfect with a slightly firm bite. Pure heaven. Paul had a shredded chicken panini with which he was well pleased. All was more than well, and the baklava with yogurt sauce was a yummy morsel. I want to go back for dinner. Soon. Very highly recommended. Let me know when you go.

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