Tuesday: Champagne and the Safeway Restroom

I have a secret.  I like Champagne. On Tuesday mornings.

Not every Tuesday mind you.  But every so often, after I drop Anni off at school, baby boy and I have some quiet time together.  By 9 o’clock, we share a chair at Sunflower Cafe.  His warm pudgy legs slung over mine.  I order Trane a yogurt and fruit parfait and for me? One hot latte and one delightfully cold glass of sparkling wine.Delicious Latte from Sunflower Cafe

For one hour, we cuddle, share breakfast, and mommy gets a bit of bubbly.  I cut up his strawberries, apples and blueberries, eating the hard nuts in the granola and spoon feeding him banana yogurt.  It’s our hour…just the two of us.

An hour of cuddle time at Sunflower Cafe

An hour of cuddle time at Sunflower Cafe

By about the time I finish my grocery list (our Tuesday afternoon stop), Coltrane starts throwing his raisins.  Time to leave.  Now it’s usually warm enough for the playground and I’ve had more than my fill of his half masticated bits of apple that he has recently started trying to feed me (blah!)  We play on the swings before picking Anni back up from school awhile later.

It is these quiet times that give me strength and calm to deal with the occasional stresses of being a Mommy.  And I am profoundly grateful for our secret hour this very past Tuesday … because once we reached the Safeway market, poor little Anni exploded with such a ferocious round of runny-tummy that we sat stranded in the Women’s Toilet.  For an hour.  Baby Trane ate unpaid-for Kale Puffs while locked in the grocery cart’s safety harness looking mildly alarmed.  I stood by poopy Anni, hoping she’d feel better enough to get home.  We had no cell service in that florescent restroom so there we sat. A sick 3 year-old, a baby eating essentially stolen food, and this Mommy.

Finally, I was able to make a run the Baby aisle for Pull-Ups!!

Dodging a pinhead restroom attendant calling out “hey lady! No merchandise into the restroom!!” I wheeled my grocery cart back into that Safeway potty with such finesse, locked the door, whipped Rapunzel Pull-Ups onto my sick toddler, and raced for home.  Stolen puffs in hand. Not my finest hour.  But once I had Anni back on the porcelain throne, I said a deep moment of Thanks for that one hour of calm and those happy little billowing bubbles in my secret glass of champagne…

a bit of liquid calm this past Tuesday

a bit of liquid calm this past Tuesday


Living Life In Art

Abi’s Farmhouse Gallery: ANNE ZIEMIENSKI

Anne Ziemienski & PersphoneEach artist finds his or her own path.  Some go to art school.  Some apprentice.  Some lock themselves away to toil relentlessly in obscurity.  Others come to Art later in life after success frees them to explore passionate hobbies.

But few, if any, can claim a first life as Belly Dancer.  In Europe.  In the Middle East.  And Egypt.  With her own 13 piece band.  Now? Acclaimed Mosaic artist celebrated from Sonoma to the pages of the New York Times.

Anne Ziemienski is a colorfully vibrant person, a dear friend, and an inspiration to artists.  She and her husband, famed painter Dennis Ziemienski, have done the near impossible – they live by art alone.  There is no day job.  There is ART.  And their Mediterranean home in Glen Ellen surges with it:  with creative vibrancy, warmth, and sweat equity.

It was here that Anne turned her love of Old World’s mosaics into decoration in her family’s home – works that celebrate nature, lore, and mythology.  Like Anne’s 8-foot-tall- Persphone at their front door, a grand stone fountain for their garden, and splendid Aphrodite for the Master Bath complete with tub reclaimed from the Old Chevron Building in San Francisco.

“Mosaic art has ancient roots and a rich cultural heritage,” says Anne.  “I particularly love the Greco-Roman style that was popular 2,000 years ago.”Portrait

Anne absorbed the ancient world’s “lost art” first as a young girl living abroad in Italy with her parents and then again as a flourishing Dancer in Cairo, Europe, and the Middle East. A chance encounter at the Salute to the Arts Festival gave Anne her first (huge) commission (3 installations) and brought her talents into the outside world.  The rest, they say, is history.

Commissioned Pebble PathsAnne is lucky (and very hard working).  Her art is coveted.  It is also great source of joy for her.  And it is this quality that I think fires the soul in viewers when looking at (or living on) each of her pieces.  You can feel the drama or love or lust in each subject and installation. This makes Anne’s work truly unique and I think, very valuable.

Wyrm of Inverness“Every aspect of my work intrigues me; picking out the marble and stones, hand cutting each piece, designing and implementing the design.  For some mysterious reason I am very drawn to work in this ancient art form as it connects me to all the cultures that I have lived within, whether it be Egyptian, Italian or Celtic.”

If you want to reach Anne, you can email her at az@ziemienski.com

She is probably in her studio, hand-slicing marble with a wet saw.  Or something equally fabulous…!

Salads & Cheese

My New Pairing Favorite

My New Pairing Favorite

I sat next to this awesome French guy last week.  As we ate my Roasted Chicken with Lemons and Winter Root Vegetables, I took note of a spot of cheese standing solo on the edge of his plate.

Now I bought that fancy cheese because he and his prominent food family and friends were coming for a special meal here at Annadel.  Since I’m still learning about food and cheese and wines, I let in a pause of insecurity.  I wondered if this cheese I bought and served was too “something” for a fancy French foodie? But our guests were just so lovely that my lame little thought vanished.

THEN We moved on to baby Kale and Arugula Salad with mustard vinaigrette… My lunch date served himself a healthy heap of greens.  And only then did he move the cheese.  Into position.  Jerome F. next did something so completely fresh, to me at least, that I stopped mid-bite to watch him.  He used his knife and fork to slice thin slabs of this delicious cheese onto speared dark leafy greens and ate it. From his fork.  All together.  I tried not to stare.

Great flavors!

Great flavors! From Oliver’s Market in Santa Rosa

How have I never done this??

We love our cheese around here (sans the crackers) and fancy butters too (revelation ca. 2011).  Sure I’ve crumbled the blue  and goat cheese over salads for years.  But this? An Epoisses de Bourgonge — one of the more wonderfully feral French cheeses I’ve had to date — paired with… baby KALE?

Couldn't resist this web image...!

Couldn’t resist this web image…!

Was he crazy or just so super cool, awesome food guy? Since he is one of the more respected Chefs anywhere, let alone France, I chose the latter. So I copied him.

And converted.

Born anew!  I went to my trusty cheesemongers at Oliver’s and spent 1/8 of our weekly grocery funds on cheese and kale.  With some asparagus and artichokes for extra flavor too.  Dean thinks I’m nuts.  I’m hooked.

Cheesemongers at Oliver's are my go-tos! Note Derek's mohawk.

Cheesemongers Sharon and Derek at Oliver’s are my go-tos. Note Derek’s mohawk. 🙂

We chose a yummy blue cheese washed in red wine, an incredible Chambertin, and a Soumaintrain from a huge array of options… At least that’s what the labels tell me.  I’m sure there is some proper types of cheese to pair with greens but here’s the thing, so far they all taste great to me. Cow, goat, blue, pasturized or not, Itlian, French, Danish or Californian… they seem to really go well with baby greens, drizzle of mild dressing, and a fork.

CHEESE at a gourmet or regional fine market like Oliver's will be vastly better than a super market. I promise. The artistry is here. I promise.

CHEESE at a gourmet or regional fine market like Oliver’s will be vastly better than a super market. I promise. The artistry is here. I promise.

My Food Lesson of the Week is this: Fancy cheese is ridiculously delicious  with dark, baby greens.  Darker the better.  Kale, spinach, arugula, herbs mix, even radicchio, endive and frissee.  I’ve used our regular salad dressings (chopped garlic, EVOO, Balsamic and salt), the mustardy one, my white Balsamic dressing too.  And they ALL go.  The only time great cheeses didn’t pair well was with the whiter parts of a romaine.  Blah.

This may be totally normal to you and you now think I am an idiot.  But I am so happy with these consistently delicious pairings, without the added carbs of crackers, that I had to share… Happy eating!

Starting out? Ask for advice or opt for an Espoisses. But let your gourmet cheesemonger ask you what you like and go from there.

Starting out? Ask for advice or opt for an Espoisses. But let your gourmet cheesemonger ask you what you like and go from there.

Eggs & Birdies

Few things bring me back to my grandmother’s table than eggs and toast.

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

Mima wore her 1970s vibrantly swirly, totally rayon, neck-to-floor dressing gowns to make breakfast.  She called them “Eggs & Birdies” — slightly morbid now that I think about it as a grown up (arguably) — but she and Dida soft boiled the eggs and timed the toasting of bread to perfection. Every time.  Seventy plus years of marriage will do that to you….  Then: They lightly cracked the eggs open in an upright position and spooned the goodness over toasted slices of Orowheat.  Egg yolks running smoothly over toasted exteriors.  Cracked pepper and iodized salt.  Served with piping hot mugs of Folgers Crystals instant coffee and breakfast was served.


Eggs & Toast

Eggs & Toast

Dean made me and the kids this amazingly simple, old school goodness this morning for breakfast.  We’ve made it a regular weekly staple — this fried eggs over toast — but somehow this morning was different.  Eaten by hand, my first bite transported me back to Linda Ridge Road, to my grandmother’s table.  I almost cried.  I was 11 years old again in faded acid wash jeans, a hot pink t-shirt, and rubbing sleep from my eyes.

Somehow these fried eggs had the perfect flavor of a soft boiled and our 2-day old toasted slices Ciabatta from Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg did the trick.  Today in our kitchen, we use local eggs, fancy rustic sea salts and fresh cracked rainbow peppercorns… But you get the drift.

Early days of little me and my Mima

Early days of little me and my Mima

I WORSHIP my grandmother.  Always will.  Peg Palmer was a force to be reckoned with.  Glamorous, loving and willful.  At home in a Marshall’s special as she was in Evening Attire or blue jeans.  Mima was fearless, funny in private circles, suffered ZERO social-climbing, and channeled much loving energy into us.  She had a special spot for us grandchildren.  As well as the color coral (in lipstick!!), water aerobics at the Valley Hunt Club, a mean chopped salad, forever being a size 10, and Asian art.  When life had me briefly down in my early 20s, Mima advised, “You go wash your face and put on fresh lipstick.  You’ll feel better.  Stick your chest out, tuck your rear end under and glide.  Glide.  Glide…” She was right.  Still is…. And I may still do this today whenever I need an inner boost.

I hope this breakfast kicks your day off right…without the need for 1980s coral lipstick!


  • Farm fresh eggs or at least organic.  *You are looking for golden yolks.
  • Pat of butter (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher or French sea salt
  • Slices of real bread — about to be toasted — 1 slice per egg

Heat a frying pan (or non-stick) up over medium-high heat.  Turn up heat to lower-high and melt butter.  Once butter begins to boil, crack eggs into pan and let cook 1-2 minutes until whites “set”  Remember: Cooking eggs is purely subjective.  Trial and error is the way to go.

Toast bread.  Butter bread and put on plate.

Using a smaller spatula, flip the eggs over and cook for 1 minute in reverse.  I look for a light gold “crust” to form on the edges.  Slide eggs onto each slice of buttered bread.  Dust with salt and pepper.  Serve IMMEDIATELY.

Additions include: flash sauteed kale or spinach, a drizzle of arugula aioli, or thinly sliced tomato works every time.

Announcing the GALLERY

Clearly I don’t write every day… or even every week.  Rather, I wait until truly inspired by something luscious.  Something drenched in flavor, aroma, and taste.  Something worth the calories and that extra time doing sit-ups.

Art has always been key to the intent behind “Abi’s Farmhouse Kitchen” but in writing at least, my love affair with beauty and art has been usurped by the more easily quantifiable joys of gastronomy and wine.   Art is ephemeral.  And so strikingly personal.  Its joys are hard to get down on paper…especially with 2 little kids under foot.  It seems like I get one thought “just so” and then someone poops themselves or starts to cry.  Or scream.  Over a marker. Or Leggo.

But in my adult brain, art reigns equal to food and wine.  Art is the pursuit of beauty (for me at least).  The very act of celebration in which elevates humans to glory in our finest state.  If you think about it, it is Art and Music and Architecture (& Rationality) that cannot be snuffed out by even the most repressive regimes and ideologies.  At least, not yet.

For those of us that are lucky to live in cultures celebrating independence, Rationality, and beauty — and for those of us that are more sensory driven, I believe that art is every bit a key part of the human maturation process.  We start out with cheap prints of Monet’s “Water lilies” or Munch’s “The Scream” in our dorm rooms. Drinking $2 Buck Chuck.  Then graduate to generic Z-gallery collages, $11 bottles of wine, and geometric mirrors.  In short, rooms designed for us by catalogue people.

I may be a dick for saying this but I fear most of us stop here.  And neglect to explore the very real world of real artists, real chefs, real growers of real produce, and real wines.  And the very real joys and color such things gift us.

Here my brother hangs Hoshino's Oyster's next to Ziemienski's Tomatoes...above a New Orleans scene Dean bought from an unknown street artist.

Here my brother hangs Hoshino’s Oyster’s next to Ziemienski’s Tomatoes…above a New Orleans scene Dean bought from an unknown street artist.

The thing is – real art, like real wine, enriches our lives each and every day. That first sip of hot coffee as the sun breaks over the Mayacamas warms my soul just as much as cooking dinner beneath Dennis Ziemienski ‘s “Tomatoes” or Robert Townsend’s “Pastries.”  At the other side of the day, drinking fine Annadel Estate wine by the fire under Whitney Abbot’s cows or Nicola Hoshino’s abstract Oysters.

Nicola Hoshino's amazing Oysters

Nicola Hoshino’s amazing Oysters

Truth is, I’d rather die than hang a Thomas Kinkade on my wall.  Or drink $2 Buck Chuck, for that matter.  My friend and esteemed gallerist Michael Hollis once said something like “we all start out with college posters and cheap wine but we grow into fine wines and real art.”  So that is my goal here, to celebrate real Art in a new chapter for the Kitchen called “Abi’s Farmhouse Gallery.”

I promise the art and artists I highlight will be worth the few minutes you spend here…or the money you wisely investing in these fine artists.  Because art (& wine) make the very best gifts to ourselves.  Ever!