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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tivo Alert Staycation: Dine with Rachael Ray Around the Bay

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 7:43 AM

As we mentioned some time ago, Rachael Ray spent some time in the Bay Area putting together a show for her latest series, Rachael's Vacation, which aired last week and will run again February 6 at 11 p.m., February 7 at 2:30 a.m., and February 15 at 2:30 p.m. on the Food Network. 

But for those of you who'd like to read it and weep -- or just follow in her tiny footsteps -- we'll share her rather interesting itinerary with you.

The show's regular intro is sheer Bizarro World comedy: "Have I got a crazy life?! I mean, between 30 Minute Meals, the magazine, the shows, the books, my family, how's a girl supposed to catch her breath? Well, I'm about to show ya. I'm about to sneak away for a quick trip and the best part -- you're coming with me!"

As if the show we're watching weren't on TV, just like 30 Minute Meals and her talk show, and didn't involve real work.

That aside, for this sneaky quick trip Rachael visits Berkeley, Mill Valley, and Sausalito. No cliche is left unturned  -- in Berkeley, "you'll find a bohemian vibe"; Mill Valley is "nestled among redwoods and canyons" and is "a creative hideaway for artists" (already rich ones, we presume); and Sausalito is "a cute little seaside village that is a must-see for any traveller' -- but we approve of many of Rachael's choices, having tried them ourselves. And therefore we're also willing to follow her to the ones we haven't visited.

In Berkeley, Rachael recommends La Note, for pain perdu, an egg dish scrambled with cream cheese, and a potato and caramelized onion omelet; the daily-changing vegetarian pizza (could be fig and gorgonzola, could be summer squash and goat cheese) at the Cheeseboard Pizza; and the Indian food at Ajanta, including mixed vegetable kofta balls, eggplant baingan, and lamb rib chops and chicken tikka from the tandoor oven. (Thumbs up from us on all three. In fact, we haven't been to the Cheeseboard in too long.)

In Mill Valley, she visits Joe's Taco Lounge ("the street food of Mexico and the traditional cooking of the Yucatan peninsula"), for tofu tostado, ensalada fresca, fish tacos, and grilled suffed pasilla chiles ("Ay caramba!," says Rachael, "that's one spicy chile!"); her fellow Food network star Tyler Florence's shop, and the Buckeye Roadhouse for chile lime chickem under a brick, a slow-smoked spicy pork sandwich with chipotle potato chips, sesame-crusted ahi on Asian slaw, and s'more pie.

The Sausalito eateries given Rachael's imprimatur include Poggio, for homemade burrata with roasted cherry tomatoes, whole roasted snapper with corn and parmigiano-reggiano salad, and potato gnocchi in Genovese pesto with green beans; Fish, right on the water, where she recommends local sturgeon scallopini with warm puttanesca sauce, and a classic Tuscan tuna salad with white beans and lemon (we like Fish, too, and said so here on one of our own staycations); and Sushi Ran, home to 40 different sakes, an omakase tuna plate, and a seafood trio including smoked salmon, spicy prawn, and a tempura roll. One Sushi Ran customer tells us he's been dining there "four times a week for the last 10 years," which made us think of poor Jeremy Piven's recent bout of mercury poisoning, that forced him to drop out of Speed the Plow on Broadway. (The skeptical New York Times called it "a real-life fish story.") We were happy to see that he recovered in time to attend the Golden Globes. We were also happy that his illness prompted this excellent line -- as good or better than anything in Speed the Plow -- from author David Mamet: "My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."

But back to Rachael: in addition to shopping at The Gardener in Berkeley and Alpha Dog in Mill Valley (for Isaboo, and we're embarrassed that we know that), she finishes up with a nice dinner at Berkeley's Rivoli, also a favorite of ours, where we, too, would like to try the portobello mushroom fritters, gulf shrimp with fried green tomatoes and creamed corn, goat cheese souffle with jamon serrano, cheese plate, and roasted peaches and figs with mascarpone.

What we'd really like to know is just how high Rachael's metabolism must be revved up to not only digest all this rich food but, well, run three TV shows, a magazine, and write a book every twenty minutes.

We're tired just thinking about it.

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Meredith Brody


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