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A Day in Downtown Martinez, Part Two: Sunflower Garden

Hours of vehicle service left us on foot to explore downtown Martinez, and we thought, what could we recommend to people here due to business at the county seat?  Where can they go that’s quick and delicious?  Today we sampled from three restaurants, to provide a spectrum of what’s not just available, but also great quality.

honey walnut prawn

honey walnut prawns

Honey walnut prawns are hard for us to pass up.  Luckily these at Sunflower Garden came without sesame seeds (on Zach’s “must not eat” list, walnuts are also); August liked the candied walnuts and they added a great crunch to the dish.  We both loved the honey sauce, which was rich, creamy, sweet, and tangy, with mild orange notes.  The prawns were many, large, and cooked well.  The meat was almost buttery and the batter was light but crunchy.

so fresh the camera can't see it

so fresh the camera can’t see it

Neither of us had tried black pepper scallops before.  We love scallops and wanted to see what these were like.  This came out so fresh, it was hard to get a clear picture because the dish produced so much steam.

much clearer now

much clearer now after a few seconds

It’s easy to mess up scallops, but Sunflower Garden knows what they’re doing.  August doesn’t necessarily like lots of black pepper so she was nervous since that ingredient is in the title of the dish, but in the end she had no reason to worry.  With the other spices and elements in the sauce, the black pepper wasn’t overpowering and it complemented the fried scallops very well.  It was like a rich light brown gravy with black pepper, garlic, and onion flavors, and a good saltiness to set off the sweet scallops.  The scallops were in a batter similar to that of the prawns, and the meat was fresh and juicy.  The broccoli was tender but still a little crisp, and the sauce went really well with it.

There is a lunch menu here with super competitive prices, so if you’re in the mood for some great Chinese cuisine with only a few minutes to walk from whatever it is that has you in downtown Martinez, come here.  Zach has eaten here since he was a kid and the owners have been the same all this time, friendly and keen on the quality of their food.

French Toast with Walnuts and Raspberries

french toast with candied walnuts, hand whipped cream, and raspberry sauce

french toast with candied walnuts, hand whipped cream, and raspberry sauce

Good morning!  We thought we would start today by giving you some breakfast inspiration.  French toast was a staple growing up for August, and over the years she has had many versions.  This morning, Zach wanted to try something new.  It is important to follow the steps in order – you don’t want to put raspberries on cold french toast!

• For the walnuts:

1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. coarse salt

No more than 1/8 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Use the middle rack.  Spread walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake for 5 minutes.  Check for “doneness” – if they are not toasted enough, continue for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Be careful that they do not burn.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom.  Add enough sugar so that it looks like wet sand.  Cook sugar on medium heat, with no stirring or else the sugar will crystallize.  As soon as the sugar is melted and the color is medium amber, add the walnuts, quickly stirring to cover each piece with the sugar mixture.

Once the walnuts are coated, as quickly as you can, spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Use a fork to separate the pieces that stuck together.  Sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

• For the whipped cream:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2-3 tbs. honey

Mix whipping cream and honey in a bowl with a whisk or hand mixer for 2-5 minutes, until cream is fluffy and peaks form.  Make sure not to over-whip, or else you will make butter.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

• For the raspberry sauce:

About 20 raspberries for the sauce

About 10 raspberries for garnish

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbs. butter

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small saute pan, cook down 20 raspberries, sugar, and butter for about five minutes on medium low heat until berries are fully broken down.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Place garnish raspberries in sauce without stirring.  Set aside until serving.

• For the french toast:

3 slices Trader Joe’s cinnamon swirl bread

1/4 cup heaving whipping cream

1/8 cup milk

2 extra large eggs

1/2 tbs. butter

Mix cream, milk, and eggs to blend thoroughly.  Soak bread slices in egg mixture, coating both sides, until slices feel like wet sponges.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter on medium low.  Place slices in pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side until the bread slightly puffs.  Make sure to stay at medium low, not medium, or else the inside of the bread will not cook.

Remove from pan, plate, garnish, and enjoy!