DIY: Vegetarian Risotto with Brussels Sprouts and Browned Butter 

 I bookmarked a recipe for Risotto with Brussels Sprouts and Browned Butter that the Pioneer Woman originally posted about a month ago. It was a vibrant dish that looked and sounded so good. I decided to make it for our monthly cooking party which was themed vegetarian. Funny thing is that I go buy all the ingredients for the dish and bring it to the house and then realize it is not a vegetarian dish. I was emptying out my grocery bag onto the kitchen counter and pulled out chicken broth. I had failed. The hostess luckily saved me because she had vegetable broth. So this version of the Pioneer Woman’s dish is indeed vegetarian.

  • 4 oz of unsalted European butter
  • Half a stalk of Brussels sprouts or about 40 sprouts cut in half
  • 1 finely diced onion
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh thyme
  • Shaved parmesan cheese


Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Once melted, it will begin to gently foam. Keep your eye and nose on it as you are looking for the butter to turn a golden brown and give off a nutty aroma. Remove the skillet from the heat and scoop out about half the liquid to be used later.

Increase the skillet to medium heat and add the Brussels sprouts. Sauté the vegetables until tender and golden brown, about eight minutes. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the skillet and set aside. 

Now add the onions, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the browned butter to the skillet and sauté until tender.    

Add the arborio rice and combine it well with the onions and garlic.    
Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth and continue to stir until the broth becomes absorbed. Repeat this process until you’ve used up the broth.  
The cooking of the rice should take about 25 minutes and result in an al dente rice. This is where you should taste for texture to know when the rice is ready.   

Add the Brussels sprouts, thyme, salt, pepper, and the remaining browned butter and mix well.  
Plate the risotto and add shaved parmesan cheese.  
This was scrumptious as a vegetarian dish, but I think it would have tasted a notch better with chicken broth!



Drake’s Dealership: Oakland’s Hip New Place to Be

Drake’s Dealership is a brand new restaurant in an old historic building located on Broadway Auto Row in Uptown Oakland. This is just one of many businesses that have begun development over the space of old car dealerships and a repair shop that together now call themselves “Hive Oakland”.  

Drake’s Dealership is actually part of a larger local business that has been around since 1989, Drake’s Brewery in the industrial part of San Leandro. They are one of the early makers of craft beers in Northern California.I have been to the Dealership three times and have enjoyed myself in the beautiful and spacious open air beer garden.  
  My favorite thing about Drake’s Dealership is that you can order 4 oz. tasters of their beers on tap. While most people might order a taster to sample before they order a larger glass, I am ordering multiple tasters as mini sized drinks. This makes it fun for me. I do end up going back for the Oaklander Weisse, a Hefeweizen with a subtle hint of lemon.  
  The food at Drake’s Dealership is quite good. Their specialty is wood fired pizza in the form of New haven style, having a thin oblong shape, slightly charred, and a chewy crust.  
 I would highly recommend ordering a basket of French fries while there. You can get regular, garlic, or spicy. I ordered the spicy fries which are sprinkled with spicy seasoning and comes with a Sriracha mayonnaise.  They stayed crispy until the last fry.
 A friend of mine ordered the fish and chips which I got to taste. The inside of the fish was really moist, fresh, and delicious, but the outer batter was overcooked and overwhelming. A lighter batter would really help this menu item.
  Chicharrones are on their menu and is a perfect snack to have with beer. They have great flavor and crunch.  
 If you want dessert, it appears that you need to ask the waiter, as I haven’t seen it on a printed menu. On one occasion, I had a beer infused mousse and biscotti. I matched it with a 4 oz. taster of Nitro Stout which shows off some chocolate and coffee flavors. This was a great combination.
 Drake’s Dealership has only been open for about two months and has already become a hip, relevant place to be. I imagine that Drake’s Dealership will become an Oakland institution in no time.

Ba Bite: Delicious Middle Eastern Bites

Last Friday afternoon, my coworker pings me and tells me I should try Ba Bite on Piedmont Avenue. Whenever anyone gives me a recommendation, I start doing some research. I googled Ba Bite, found their website, and was immediately impressed. Yes, I was impressed by their website. The design is modern and clean with a pretty logo of a pomegranate. The web pages are well organized and included welcoming photos. I was intrigued.

A few moments later one of my friends sent me a text to ask if I wanted to go out for dinner tonight. I sent her the link to Ba Bite and she agreed to go. I quickly made a reservation for two.

When you enter Ba Bite, you walk into a casual environment where you order your food at the counter, get a number, and find a seat in the other room. The restaurant was almost full, but there were a few tables with reserved signs on it, one of which was ours.
  We spent a few minutes reviewing the menu board and strategizing what we would order. It was nice to easily agree on our food choices.
We went with the classic hummus plate. Ba Bite makes homemade hummus with California organic garbanzo beans; and the classic version is prepared with olive oil and pine nuts. It comes with pita bread and a lovely edition of pickled vegetables and olives. The hummus was very smooth and delicious. My favorite hummus comes from Oren’s in Palo Alto, but this one definitely comes in at a very close second.  
 The salad we chose was the full squash salad which was like a fun playground with the variety of ingredients. It came with arugula, butternut squash, cranberry, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, scallion, shaved Manchego cheese, and pomegranate vinaigrette. This flavorful and healthy dish also offered many wonderful textures.

Majadera is a Middle Eastern dish containing rice, lentils, and meat and dates back centuries to the Medieval Arab World. At Ba Bite, the dish is topped with fried onion, yogurt sauce, and pine nuts. You can either have it as a vegetarian dish or with your choice of meat. We chose to have it with eggplant and I was so happy we did. The strips of eggplant had the best cook on them; they were tender and had an awesome char.    
 In the past several years, I have become very fond of lamb. We ordered the lamb kefta kebob which is made with ground lamb, herbs, spices, pine nuts, and yogurt sauce. The kebob had a nice crust on it and offered a wonderful symphony of exotic flavors.    
 Ba Bite is a great addition to Piedmont Avenue as well as the City of Oakland. I definitely see this as my new “go to” restaurant for Middle Eastern cuisine.

Portland: So Much to Eat and So Little Time

I stopped in Portland, Oregon on my drive up to Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, B.C and then on the way back down. The last time I made this road trip it was with family over thirteen years ago. At that time, Portland did not have the food scene that it does today. I recall we had really good Chinese food in Portland Chinatown so we ate at the same restaurant on our return. On this trip, there were so many places to try there would be no time for any restaurant repeats.

Of all the stops, Portland impressed me the most in terms of the quality and variety of food. Here’s a summary of my best bites in Portland which might be helpful to anyone planning on visiting this culinary city:
Cuban Food

Pambiche is a Cuban restaurant located in Kerns where we had our first dinner. We shared a plate of tostanes, or fried green plantains. These crisp savory snacks are considered the french fries of the Caribbean.   

 Of the three dinner plates that my party ordered, it was the Rabo Encendido, oxtail plate that was the most successful. The tender oxtail is braised in a spicy creole wine sauce and served with white rice and amazing corn fritters.   

I have been drinking Portland’s Stumptown coffee for several years now. My local coffee shop in Oakland uses their beans for expresso beverages and also sells their beans. This was my first time going to an actual Stumptown coffee shop and I felt anticipation and excitement because I was such a big fan. I am still a big fan. 

 Ice cream
There is no excuse for any foodie city not to have a gourmet ice cream shop. In Portland that shop is Salt & Straw. It’s all about using the best seasonal and local ingredients and thinking up innovative flavors. With three shops in Portland and one is Los Angeles, I am sure there will be more Salt & Straw in my future. 

 Food Cart/Chinese
Mama Chow’s Kitchen is a cute food cart serving Chinese food and is parked in Downtown Portland amongst several other neighboring food trucks. The food truck scene is actually quite prevalent in Portland. We chose to go to Mama Chow’s Kitchen because this food cart has ties to Oakland. The owner Jeff is from Oakland and his family used to own and run Best Taste in Oakland Chinatown.   

 We picked up some wonton soup, lollipop wings, and garlic noodles. Lollipop wings are chicken wings that are cut in a way where the chicken is pushed up and you can hold the bone like you would for the stick of a lollipop. The crispiness of the chicken and the flavors of honey, soy, and garlic running through the lollipops are delicious and addictive. I prefer the garlic noodles from Mama Chow’s Kitchen to some of the most famous ones in San Francisco. The texture of these noodles were the perfect al dente and sometimes that’s all it takes.   

You can’t go to Portland and not stop at Voodoo Donuts. When you see people carrying their pink boxes it’s hard to ignore. With all the food I consumed, I just wanted to peek in and see what the hype was all about. When you stop at Voodoo Donuts for the first time, you can’t not get the voodoo doll.  

 I think someone played some voodoo on me because I left the shop with a pink box.   
 Indian Food

Dinner at Bollywood Theater was my favorite meal of this trip. Serving Indian street food, this Portland establishment creates a casual and fun dining experience. Where else can you eat and shop? To the left of Bollywood Theater is a market selling a large selection of Indian spices, ingredients, and products. Seating is available indoors as well as outdoors.  

We ordered quite a few dishes for the three of us. Surprisingly, my favorite dish was a vegetarian dish, dal and coconut curry. Lentils and seasonal vegetables are cooked in a coconut and curry sauce and served with saffron rice. I have to say that the only dancing happening at Bollywood Theater was my palate.