Any one can knock out a lava cake these days.

My Pal Jacque found an organic mix for Molten Lava Cake by Wildtree that allows you the ability to toss some of these babies together in

less than 15 min. The recipes is easy and as is comes out good. I altered the recipe a bit and added vanilla and a splash of espresso to make the chocolate taste more chocolaty.. The package comes sized for 6 small ramekins – so you may need to purchase them as well. Bake time says 12 – 15 min. I suggest you check them at 10 min, then take them out by 12 min to really get the gooey center. Otherwise you will end up with a pretty nice brownie cake. The cost of the premix box is around $9 makes 6.




Bak-klene ZT cooking spray – get your glide on

This Christmas one of my work colleagues gifted me with Bak-klene ZT cooking spray.

Yes – I know – you might wonder why?? Well  – we often all talk about food and She had heard about this particular brand and thought of me ( Note – this is what gifting is all about – thinking before hand and knowing the person – not because its been marketed since october and with the biggest most  budget).IMG_9673

So, I digress.. I had always tended to use what ever spray I had around the house – but never found them great. Till now – Bak-klene converted me! Not only does it go on easy and provided me with the non-stick coverage I wanted – it has no after taste or leave a funky texture on the cookware.  It also has zero-transfat and is used in many profession kitchens I have heard tell. I have been working with it now since December and even the stickiest messes  I have managed to bake up – have simply slid out!

Available at Williams-Sonoma or Amazon – at almost $10 its not cheap – but its well worth it.

Gluten Free goes mainstream – Safeway Castro Street

Over that last few years – we have all seen the increase in folks talking about the health benefits of moving towards a Gluten Free diet. We’ve several sets of friends who have switched over to it, so I am always on the look out for ways to edit my menus to accommodate them. Was nice to see how Safeway Castro  is figuring this out – especially with the new Whole Foods across the street. We have tried several of the new Safeway branded gluten free line and found them pretty good and reasonably priced.

IMG_9386 IMG_9387

February BirchBox Arrived!

My February BirchBox order arrived this week with a great assortment of new finds.  For those of you who don’t know what is – click here for your invitation to join. They offer a variety of new and trending products and for a monthly members fee – they send you a sample “box” of the month’s top hits. Essentially as they describe themselves – it’s a “discovery commerce platform”.

So while I am a pretty big techno geek – of late I have been enjoying the idea of old school communication techniques with the trending resurgence in notecards, custom journals and writing implements. So off the bat I loved that they included a 

box of blank note card and envelopes with a more masculine theme. Slightly retro-themed embossed imprints offer a nod towards old school male imagery. In fact BirchBox is promoting them as part of the “Art of Manliness Stationary”. In a warm sand/cream color, with a crisp embossed art-image – these cards will definitely be used over the next few months. Birchbox is selling the box of 15 cards for $24. 

Also included in the monthly box, were samples of facial products geared for men. This month the goodies included both a brushless shave cream and face wash by “apothecary-isque” looking Schullz & Malley. They definitely are offering a nod towards the vintage.

Now, not being someone who likes a lot of fragrance or heavy smells emanating from the skin and face products I use – I was less than hopeful when I saw the samples. But I was willing to give them a try. I was pleasantly surprised with my initial reaction on opening them. The scent is subtle – almost offering an echo-smell – one you get a wiff of then it sort or comes back a minute later in your mind. Immediately reminding me of being a kid and the smells associated with my Dad’s closet and his “man-cave” back then – the attic. I would describe the scent of  Schullz & Malley samples as a balance of smoky and earthy with just enough sweet to mellow it. It made me think of freshly aired wool sweaters, pipe tobacco, old wood and well used fireplaces.

The Cleansing Face Wash has pours out as a thick lotion, then mutates to nice creamy feel when rubbed and applied. It has a medium lather and being someone with a shaved head and beard, a nickel-sized amount was plenty for a solid coverage.  After rinsing my face had a nice clean feel and my beard responded nicely to the wash and even a few hours later felt softer than with other wash products I have used. The wash runs about $18 for 6 oz on BirchBox












Brushless Shave Cream is a semi-solid type cream. The kind that is thick and very “nozema” like – but rubbed on your neck & face spreads well but not at thick as for instance The Art of Shaving’s shave cream. (Ed. Note: I am a long time fan and devotee of the unscented version of the Art of Shaving product line and the brush and shave cream has saved me lots of cuts.  So they remain the standard by which I compare products against, which luckily BirchBox also sells!)

The coverage was great and the shave smooth. With two scented products layered I was worried that I was going to smell them all day (even a good scent is too much for me after a while) – but again I was pleasantly surprised that by the time I had dried off and dressed – the fragrance with pretty much well I the background and dissipated nicely.  The Shave cream is $18 for 8oz on Birchbox

Now also included in this months box were:

  • A sample fragrance from English Laundry’s Signature line – which I prompting gave to a younger colleague at work who sniffed and liked depth and fresh smell. But at $84 for 3.4 oz not sure he would buy it.
  • A sampler of dr. brandt® pores no more® pore refiner. This one didn’t get tied yet – but once I do – I will share my thoughts. Not cheap at $45 for 1 oz – I am not sure its one that I would invest in on a regular basis.


Vietnamese at PPQ, 2/8/14

On Saturday I got the urge that Vietnamese was in order. I put the call out on Facebook to see who my peeps thought were venues worth checking out.

Keeping in mind a few variables – 1) the place needed to offer more than just Pho, 2) it couldn’t be too exotic (not everyone in my dinner family is adventurous – and some have “food issues” I won’t go into) and 3) as much as I like the TL in SF – with the crappy weather last night – I wanted to stay out of the downtown and TL or new my office (those places I can get to for lunch)

So the trending recommendations are listed below- with PPQ being our choice for the night. (note – I will most likely try all them on the list eventually!)

  • PPQ: 2332 Clement St (between 24th Ave & 25th Ave)   San Francisco, CA 94121


Of course, without thinking – we arrived around 6:45 with-out reservations – – the place was hopping but the very efficient host, once we asked, put us on the list and we were seated about 30 min later. Hint – there seemed to be an early crowd then a around 8:30/8:45 lull in the crowd, with another hit coming soon after. 

The place has a great casual faced-paced vibe – this is not the place you go to be chatty with the wait staff unless you happen to be fluent in Vietnamese and even then – the side talk we brief. But once seated they pretty much leave you be while you eat – so we weren’t feeling rushed which I liked. We were hungry, so sat and ordered the fried calamari and the fried spring rolls right off. While debating our main meal options – we devided and went with Lemongrass chicken (which has a little spice/heat to it), the 5-spice chicken (which is more deeper flavor but not hot spicy) and the Roasted Crab. We also ordered the garlic noodles (of course) and the string beans  – which were rocken. We had ordered the crab fried rice – but the kitchen never sent it out – so thats on the next try. Oh and we gilded the dining lily and also order the fried Banana’s with the ice cream to share.

The food comes out pretty fast – and is very hot. The Calamari was some of the best I have had. They use the Calamari steaks with the breading – quick fried – they were tender and melted at the bite. The Springs rolls  were dense and chewy  – when dipped in the sauce with the basil and lettuce was a great start. As the main courses came out, we dug in. They weren’t sent out in any order or all out at once – so it was good that we had lots of options. Both chicken dishes were good. Rich in flavor and a nice sized portion. The Crab –  which came out last, was we heard while waiting in line – one of the crowd favorites. Hot, messy, packed with a garlic butter sauce, and just enough of the innards left in that you got the flavors of crab. It comes partially prepped – but you will still need to be prepared to get “as one” with your food to get to the meat.  (FYI -the drunken crab is the version with the white wine). Oh –  there is a reason they call the place PPQ – Dungeness Island – they offer the crab 6 ways. The garlic noodles were good as well – but make sure you specify how many to order -if you are getting lots of dishes start with one order to share – you will find a little goes a long way unless its your primary meal. Over all a good time – the place does well with couples, to groups and is deceptively large with a back room and second floor. While we were standing there at least 5 calls came in for reservations on  valentines day.. hint hint. The prices are moderate – entrees running $10 – $14, the Crab around $38. But we also had enough food to bring home for lunch  – our average price of the meal was about $50 each.

  • Tu Lan:  8 6th St (at Stevenson St)  San Francisco, CA 94103 Neighborhood: SoMa (415) 626-0927
  • PPQ: 2332 Clement St (between 24th Ave & 25th Ave)   San Francisco, CA 94121
  • Hai Ky Mi Gia: 707 Ellis St (between Larkin St & Polk St) San Francisco, CA 94109 Neighborhood: Tenderloin (415) 771-2577
  • Sunflower in Potrero Hill or Mission:  3111 16th St (at Valencia St)  San Francisco, CA 94103 Neighborhood: Mission (415) 626-5022,  288 Connecticut St San Francisco, CA 94107 Phone number(415) 861-2336
  • Jasmine Garden:  708 14th St San Francisco, CA 94114 Phone number(415) 861-2682
  • Tin Vietnamese
  • Mau:  665 Valencia St (between Sycamore St & 18th St)  San Francisco, CA 94110 Neighborhood: Mission (415) 934-8889
  • Vietnam Cafe ( Recommended for late night)
  • Evergreen Garden: 3100 18th St (between Treat Ave & Harrison St)  San Francisco, CA 94110 Neighborhood: Mission (415) 864-1657


Boon Eat & Drink; a new family of quality food & drink at the River

OK – So for years now this part of the Russian River has been struggling to find its own groove and identity. Well with the fast raising trend in Restaurants and venues like what the folks from the Boon family of enterprises is putting out – its found the groove.

Not only have they found a way to be true to themselves but that were able to mix it with quality food, good prices, a great wine list and most of all – they get the service industry. Not once do you ever feel like they are doing you a favor by being open. Boon Eat & Drink never fails. They make the standard fare of burgers and steaks come alive with a reason to order then again – but its the seasonal and weekly specials that make this really stellar – from the produce they grow themselves to the cuts of meat to the combinations they package it all in – it all works.

No way my photos could do the food justice – so these come right from Boon!




Its a small venue and they don’t take reservations – so plan to grab a few glasses of wine while you wait if you go at peak hours. My fav has been the flash fried brussels sprouts, burgers but on a recent trip had the winter squash which was addictive and a pulled port shoulder with creamy polenta that I found my self amazed by. You find details on Boon Eat & Drink here

16248 Main St   Guerneville, CA 95446   (707) 869-0780

Sally’s Birdy Botanicals

One of our pals, Sally, who also works at one of our Castro favorite eateries;  La Mediterranee– we come to find out also runs this cool skin care products line called Birdy Bot

anicals.  Her focus offers a local, organic and fresh take on skin care – so had to check her stuff out at one of the gift shows this year.

After sniffing around a bit and a sample here and there – I opted to grab the Three-in-one Hydrating Lotion Jelly with a concentrate of aloe and cucumber- it was recommended good not only for face and head (in my case – having no head hair) she also mentioned it worked nicely on beards.  We also grabbed the Milk and Papaya Enzyme Face scrub with its added kick of pineapple enzymes. The simple design and ingredients, not to mention fresh scents made these easy sales. I also grabbed a Sarsaparilla Lip Butter – just because!

The Enzyme Face scrub is thicker than I expected and for folks who like a supple feel afterwards – you will really like it. For me, the after-use feel of my skin made me think it might be too heavy a product. But guests here at the house say they liked it for the same reason. On the other hand the Hydrating Lotion Jelly, with its slightly gooey cool feel, goes on and after moment or two simply absorbs in. Even the fresh bright smell while subtle enough to begin, gradually disappears. I do like the way my face and beard feel with it – it reminds me of using aloe gel after-sun type products but with a nicer, rounder finish. As for the lip butter – well if you are a fan of “birch beer” soda then you will love it .

The lotion runs about $16, the butters around $6 and the enzyme scrub a bit more expensive at $22, but it goes a long way and seems well worth the cost.

FYI – I be these would make a Valentines basket filler!

Birdy Botanical Natural Body Care | 1630 North Main St., Suite 300, Walnut Creek, CA. 94596 | 415.515.8433

About Birdy Botanicals according Sally’s website;


Birdy Botanicals founder Sally Waters started making skincare products to solve her own skin problems. While working as a model maker for movies like Planet of the Apes and James and the Giant Peach, Sally was exposed to a lot of harsh chemicals involved in the production of props. Harsh chemicals in the work environment irritated her skin and allergies.

Vowing to reduce the toxins in her life, she started experimenting with natural body care ingredients and cleaning products. After sharing extras with friends and family, it became clear that the gentle approach worked for other people, too. A business was born.

Our Philosophy

Skincare products should be a pleasure to use. They should look pretty, smell pretty, and feel good.

Reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and allergens by using products with high quality, natural ingredients. Natural scents, essential oils. Your skin is your body’s largest organ. If you read the label and can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s probably not the best product for you or your face.

A streamlined routine will fit better into most lifestyles. You don’t need to spend a long time on your skincare routine to get good results. Products with multiple uses are a good value, and simplify your daily skincare routine. You’ll save money and time by using products that have multiple uses.

You shouldn’t have to spend a ton of money for beautiful skin. If it doesn’t work for you, you should be able to return a product. All of our products are 100% guaranteed. If you don’t like it, we’ll refund your money.

Step gently upon the planet. Birdy Botanicals is better for you and the earth. Products are made without harsh chemicals and sulfates and unnecessary packaging has been eliminated.

Our products are 100% vegetarian, and are never tested on animals.

Nutritional “Crack” – as addictive, just better for you

When I travel – I tend to eat regionally. My Sister turned me on to these folks a few years back when I was out in Provincetown for  a summer trip. The Fairway Resturant and The Hole In One in Eastham has an incredible group of granola mixes that I think is some of the best I have had. It essentially is nutritional “crack”. I like it so much I tend to order it and have it shipped all year round. Located on Route 6 in North Eastham, this 20 year old, family run shop, specializes in fresh, hand-cut donuts and warm, friendly service and a way about granola that is dangerous..

They have a “know how” with  chocolate and peanut butter in a way that makes it addictive and not just “tossed in” for those that are attracted it it. The two that I tend to eat the most is Midnight and Muddy Beach Nut but truth be told – they are all great. So good that I eat them out of the bag like cookies, on ice cream and even on occasion as cereal…

Really – you have to try it! you can find the website  here,  online Facebook or located in two spots;

The Hole in One Restaurant
98 Cranberry Highway
Orleans, MA 02653Phone: 508-255-3740

The Hole in One Donut Shop4295 US-6
Eastham, MA 02642
Phone: 508-255-9446

Russian River Get-A-Way Weekend; Mom’s Apple Pie


We decided on a quick visit to Guerneville, Ca this weekend and made a call up to the former Russian River Resort, now rebranded and open as the R3 to see what kind of openings they had. The website it pretty clear and easy to navigate which is a good thing – as when calling to get into – you pretty much are directed back to it to check which rooms are available and to make a reservation. The place it pretty much in keeping with its past – but the rooms are clean and the beds soft. (More on staying at the R3 here)

But I digress. Along the way up to the river after an easy start to our day,, on recommendations from our pal Joe G. (owner of my personal local Barbershop of choice;  Joes Barbershop here in San Francisco), Paul suggested we stop off at Mom’s Apple Pie shop in Sebastapol for “lunch”.

Moms logo

Look for Moms!

Mom’s Crew at Mom’s Apple Pie

Now – not being someone who is a “gotta have pie” kind of guy – I wasn’t expecting much. On walking in – I was thinking sandwiches first, then maybe a slice.

Well, boy was my attention diverted with being greeted by a showcase full of freshly baked pies many of them looking every good as they smelt.  The folks working were lovely to chat with and “Mom” even poked her head out briefly to say hello.

Mom's showcase of pleasure

Mom’s showcase of pleasure

Being a fan of cherry – I opted for the cherry pie and Paul debated a moment or two longer and ended up with the blueberry, then just to be sure – we order a mini apple pie to take with us for later.  Gotta’ love a place that serves the pie simple and unadorned, warm and waiting before the sandwiches arrive. So you know the order of the day was going to be sample first then the protein.

More from Mom

More from Mom

Three things stood out for me; 1) The fruit tasted like fruit! Just the right balance of sweet and tart. I kind of think after tasting his, that the blueberry might have edged out the cherry some on flavor,  2) The crust was flaky and rich, just thick enough with out feeling like it was overwhelming the dish,  an last – it was warm and size right served in recycled tin pie plates.

While not a fancy place – they serve it up right. We also noticed that they now offer gluten free pies. Well worth a trip if you are in the area!


Mom’s Apple Pie is located; 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. North • Sebastopol, CA 95472 • 707-823-8330,

Mom’s Apple Pie


SOAPs with a bang!

This year we happen to hit both the KPFA Craft Fair   and the Renegade Craft Show. Now these are not your mother’s craft shows. These days they are filled with artisan chocolates, vinegar’s, candy, soaps, lotions, jewelry and more. What is kind of cool – is as “hipster chic” has taken hold – more of the vendors are guys catering products to guys. So you can find products for those of us with beards, or fragrances that work for guys.

Bay Rum by Laughing Devil

One of my favorites this season was a Bay Rum fragranced soap and I tend to not like most things that have fragrance.  This all natural soap was great and coming from a company with a name like “Laughing Devil Designs” I mean really! How could I not have stopped.  You can find them online at and use the site’s blog to let you know where they vend. At $6.50 a large bar – it was worth it. Other ones of note were the seasonal Cranberry Spice and limited run Mistletoe

Fyi the other alternative if you prefer your soaps more professional packaged  is to check out the “Kiss My Face” product line  – Rough Thyme is great smells good but not over powering. A Body worker pal turned me on to this. While not cheap – I find buying locally at smaller shops you can get a deal or I have gotten good deals at Amazon for it.

Rough Thyme a clean scent that gets you clean