Monday, December 23, 2013

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas...let your heart be light...

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and very blessed New Year!

See you in 2014!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Lovely Gluten Free Inn...

Tucked away on charming Randolph Street is the #1 Rated Inn in Napa, CA out of 84 inns...and believe it or not, it's entirely gluten free! I had the pleasure of staying at the Inn on Randolph a few weeks ago, during what was a perfect fall weekend in the valley. I'd learned of the Inn earlier in the year while working our booth for The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in San Francisco this past February and since, had been dying to stay at the Inn and try it out, given that it's so close to home... yet just far enough away to feel like a mini vacation!

I'd done my research about the Inn on Randolph learning that it's owned by Karen and Dan Lynch, Bay Area natives who purchased the historic Inn two years ago and transformed this property into a dreamy escape. As a guest with celiac disease, I can say that staying at the Inn was an amazing experience and such a relief given that this B & B is entirely gluten free, alleviating any and all concerns of cross contamination from the Inn’s beautiful kitchen.

Karen has been gluten free herself for 7 years. After purchasing the Inn in 2011, (they closed it for 10 months to restore), gutting it down to the studs, and transforming this historic 19th century home into a stunning and peaceful modern retreat, she decided that she wanted the Inn on Randolph to be a completely gluten free B & B. At first she was cautious to advertise the Inn as completely gluten free, not wanting to cause non-GF guests to feel unwelcome or with the feeling that the Inn's quality of dining was not top-notch (which it is) given the reputation of some gluten free foods. However, as time has passed and the Inn's ratings have skyrocketed. It's become apparent that the word is out in both gluten free and non-GF communities that the Inn on Randolph is truly the place to go for rest, restoration and delicious food!

That accommodations at the Inn are even better than the food...we were fortunate enough to stay in the "Franklin" guest cottage just across the beautifully designed garden outside the main house. This gorgeous abode offers a romantic fireplace, plush linens (which they sell!) and a super cozy atmosphere. The cottage also has a private patio with a bistro set - the perfect setting for a lazy morning of reading and enjoying an organic cup of tea...along with a delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookie! The Inn consists of five large guest rooms in the main, historic house, along with five guest cottages neatly tucked inside the Inn's nearly half-acre property line. Each room and cottage share a similar design theme of warm, inviting colors, crisp linens and traditional furnishings, yet each room is also purposely designed to encompass its own unique, decorative attributes.

Owners Karen and Dan were kind enough to sit down with me for a an interview that included a complimentary, delicious glass of chardonnay from a favorite winery just "up-valley." Karen, the consummate host, is always checking in on guests who are lounging on the patio or in the beautiful library by the fireplace offering snacks or a glass of wine and great conversation. Both Karen and Dan, along with their staff, were extremely accommodating and genuine making the stay even more special and comfortable. They offered great wine tasting tips to boot, and even booked a tasting for us at one of their favorite wineries in the Valley, Frog's Leap

One of the more interesting things I learned from my interview with Karen and Dan was about the length of time they researched, contemplated and dreamed of finding just the right property to transform and create into their own to share with guests from all over the state and world. Or as Karen's intention stated, "let's build a place that we'd like to hang out in." They definitely got that right.

I particularly enjoyed spending time in their 100% gluten free kitchen discussing how Karen and her staff ensure that all guests with celiac disease or gluten intolerance are treated to delicious, SAFE, gluten free food choices. One of the other treats I discovered in the room was organic, gluten free bath products, (other than the body lotion) by EO, a Marin-based company specializing in natural and organic based body care products. 

The Inn also offers weekend-long, terrific gluten free cooking and baking classes taught by San Francisco allergen free baker, Jeffery Larsen. So after the first weekend of staying at the Inn, I was kindly invited back to attend the holiday baking class the following weekend. I attended one full day of baking, but I would strongly recommend signing up for an entire weekend of baking and wonderful comradery that forms between all of the guests sharing their stories and bonding over good food and creativity. 

The next class offering is the pasta making class, taking place in January 2014 - it's a MUST ATTEND for anyone who is gluten free and wants to learn the art of making pasta at home!!

Be sure to book WAY in advance so you don't miss a chance to stay at this historic, beautiful Inn in the heart of downtown Napa and just a short distance from the famous foodie-haven, the Oxbow Public Market. This great marketplace houses several gluten-free restaurants and a bakery including C-Casa and Cate & Co. And definitely do yourself a favor by not leaving the Inn until you've had their wonderful gluten free breakfast and bowl of their delicious, homemade granola!

Between the lovely accommodations, the wonderful setting and close proximity to some of the world’s best restaurants and wineries, this is a weekend getaway that can’t be missed.   I know I’ll be heading back as soon as I can get a reservation!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Napa Style!!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


It's been some time since I last penned a blog entry. The truth is this...our family has had one hell of a year due to our parents' near-fatal car accident a number of months ago. It's changed everything in ways that none of us could have possibly imagined, and has caused me to grow in ways that I didn't realize were possible.

The gift of course, is that our parents are alive and moving forward. We are immensely blessed because without the miracle they received, truly, they wouldn't be with us this Thanksgiving or at all. We're still shaking our heads as to how they did survive, but trust me, we're not going to ask too many questions but rather, love the heck out of our parents even more now, and with all of our hearts.

What's astonishing to me is that when trauma hits, we all (as humans) react and respond so differently, don't we? Everyone steps up or is forced to push themselves beyond what they dreamed was possible when the Universe asks us to. I'll say this...through the long dark days of fear and then recovery, I'd never felt such a state of calm and the knowing that something much greater than I was feeding me energy and substance. It's hard to put into words, but it was real. As real as sitting here writing these words.

As time has moved on, our family has found great comfort in remembering and using the gift of humor we all seem to have been given. Even in the toughest moments, we leaned in and laughed with one another. I imagine that as the years pass and our family reflects back on the accident and it's meaning or significance to each of us, what we'll remember the most is the profound love we have for one another and our gift of humor.

Now, even the fall light looks different to me this year...I continue snapping photos of precious moments when the suns' rays reflect abundantly upon vibrant red tree leaves. I'm stopped in my tracks during long runs through my neighborhood and can't help but try to capture the beauty before it's gone.

In spite of the accident, life's abundance has continued to arrive and I've had some terrific experiences related to my work as a freelance food writer, along with the joys that come from an expanded network of celiac advocacy work...which I'll be writing about this month and beyond. Life truly does "bloom" where you're planted if you recognize it and say "yes" to all that shows up.

When we sit down at the table this coming week for Thanksgiving, our focus will be on the tremendous thanks we share as a family that is still intact, and mostly for the monumental blessing of our parents' lives.

What they say in song is really true, in the end, it really does all come down to love.

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, August 2, 2013

FDA Publishes the Gluten Free Labeling Rules ~ Finally!


Celiacs have some big news to celebrate and share today! Today, after nearly 10 years of debate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released final rules for gluten-free labeling, stating that products containing fewer than 20 parts per million will be allowed to carry a "gluten-free" designation.

Here's today's latest news from Jennifer Iscol, President of the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California discussing not only the overall importance of this ruling, but how it will also affect those of us celiacs living and eating in the Bay Area.



Long-Awaited Regulation Will Make It Easier for Americans to 
Follow a Gluten-Free Diet

Healdsburg, CA – August 2, 2013 - The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California, a nonprofit organization serving the greater Bay Area and Sacramento region, today commended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for establishing a federal standard for gluten-free labeling. The long-awaited regulation will help to ensure that individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have the basic information necessary to manage their health.

The rule will impact dozens of gluten-free food manufacturers in the Bay Area, who must comply with the new regulation by August 2, 2014, and thousands of local residents, who will find it easier to follow a medically prescribed gluten-free diet.

To comply with the new rule, products labeled gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. Until now, there has been no federal regulation of the term “gluten-free” on packaged foods. Gluten is the common name for the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and it is harmful to people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. The only treatment for celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune condition, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Last fall, the president of the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California (CCFNC), Jennifer Iscol, created a White House petition calling for the finalization of the long-overdue rule. The petition reached the required signature threshold for a response from the administration, which is expected soon, and its success renewed calls for action on the rule.

 “The new regulation will make it far easier for people on a gluten-free diet to make safe choices at the grocery store,” Ms. Iscol stated. “This is huge news for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, who can become very ill by consuming just a microscopic speck of gluten. Having to analyze gluten-free ingredient labels in the absence of federal regulation has been very difficult for consumers. It’s a huge relief to move forward.”

“Patients need accurate labeling to safely manage their diets,” said Amy Burkhart, MD, RD, who specializes in celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity and serves on the board of the CCFNC. “For this patient population, ongoing exposure to gluten, even in small quantities, can cause major health problems. The FDA’s work is a significant contribution to their health.”

The gluten-free labeling rule is the result of a decade-long effort led by the American Celiac Disease Alliance, the national advocacy organization for celiac disease, working together with the FDA, patient support groups, medical experts, scientists and food manufacturers.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set labeling standards by August of 2008 to aid the estimated three million Americans with celiac disease. It has taken the FDA an additional five years to establish the definition for gluten-free. “It has been a long wait, but in the end, we feel that the FDA based its work on an incredibly thorough, science-based assessment that serves the needs of both consumers and manufacturers,” Ms. Iscol said.

The year FALCPA was signed into law, sales of gluten-free products were $560 million, and they rose to $4.2 billion last year. By 2017, the sales of gluten-free foods and beverages are expected to exceed $6.6 billion. The skyrocketing growth in the market increased the need for FDA’s action to set a national gluten-free standard.

About the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California
The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California provides evidence-based support to those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento region. We carry out this mission by heightening awareness; educating the medical community, food purveyors and the general public; administering Camp Celiac in partnership with The Taylor Family Foundation; and by offering group and individual support.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cheery Cherries!

Nothing says "it's summer" more than walking through your local farmer's market and seeing a gorgeous table filled with bright, shiny, crimson-colored freshly picked cherries! They are as delicious as they are beautiful and I can't enough of the deep and robust colors that each little jewel puts on display, nor the deliciousness of their perfectly tart/sweet juices that burst when bitten in to. My maternal grandfather, Pedro Laca, used to always eat bags of cherries, or "cherr-etxas" he would say. His funny way of saying the word in "Basque slang."I can't EVER eat a cherry without hearing him say that word in my head...a sweet memory, to be sure.

I took a long gander through the quaint and robust Burlingame farmer's market this morning and was pleasantly surprised at just how much amazing produce and products were for sale. My only issue with these markets is the co$t of organic produce and while I'm completely a believer in buying and eating locally grown foods, there's no getting around the fact that it's incredibly easy to drop $100 bucks in 15 minutes flat!! These are the days when I long to be back in Europe where every market IS a farmers market and produce, rare mushrooms, exotic cheeses, you name it are priced affordably and "organic" is the norm not the exception.

On this lazy Sunday, a phrase I never use until temperatures become scorching, as they have this weekend for all of us in the west, I've spent a bit of time perusing some of my newly favorite gluten free cookbooks and stumbled across a recipe for gluten free cherry-ginger oatmeal cookies - Yum! In spite of record temps, I turned on my oven and decided to bake up a batch using some of the fresh and gorgeous cherries I purchased at the market. What can I say...colors and food inspire me!

The cookbook I found this recipe in is Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Gluten Free, written by Kristine Kidd, previous food editor of Bon Appetit magazine for over 20 years. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of the book via a gluten free publisher/contact and it was such a terrific surprise and since the first moment I cracked the seams, I've been talking this book up to friends near and far. Kristine put together a very beautiful, practical cookbook that's loaded with easy yet flavorful and unique recipes that are sure to become favorites. If you're an egg lover, as I am, you must try the potato pancakes, poached egg, and green onion sauce on page 56 - it's truly egg-a-licious!!!

Back to cherries!

Cherry-Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 48 cookies

- 1/4 Cup, unsalted butter at room temperature

- 3/4 Cup, brown sugar packed

- 3/4 Cup, granulated sugar

- 1 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla

- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

- 1 Cup, toasted almond butter

- 3 Cups, gluten-free rolled oats

- 1/2 Cup, crystalized ginger chopped

- 2/3 Cup chopped, well drained cherries (calls for dried but I went with fresh)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter cookie sheets. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat until well mixed. Add the eggs, baking soda, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth. Add the almond butter and beat until smooth. Mix in the oats, ginger and cherries.

2. Spoon the dough by rounded teaspoons and place on the prepared sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are light brown around the edges, about 12 minutes. Let them cool on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Enjoy this little summer treat and please eat REAL FOOD!!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls Helping to Find a Cure - National Celiac Awareness Month ~

Prominent Bay Area Gluten-Free Baking Company Teams Up to
Help Find a Cure for Celiac Disease

Mariposa Baking and The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center
Celebrate National Celiac Disease Awareness Month in May

Mariposa Baking of Oakland is partnering with The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center for National Celiac Disease Awareness Month in May. This unique partnership, formed through a strong desire to generate more awareness of celiac disease on the west coast, brings together the Bay Area’s preeminent 100% dedicated gluten-free bakery and a world leader in celiac disease research.
Throughout the month of May, Mariposa Baking’s retail locations and online shop will offer their customers the opportunity to participate in this fundraiser. By purchasing a designated sweet or savory gluten-free baked good, a portion of the sale will go directly towards funding the work of The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. Mariposa Baking has chosen its two most popular items; their sandwich bread and cinnamon rolls, both of which can be purchased in their retail locations and online store.
“Mariposa is committed to the long-term health of our customers and The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center is doing great research to improve the lives of people with celiac disease,” said Patti Furey Crane, founder of Mariposa Baking. “We’re happy to support the work of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and to enable our customers to participate in this fundraising effort as well. We look forward to great success.”
May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month. The focus is to raise awareness about celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCSG). Approximately 3 million Americans have celiac disease. There is no evidence-based data to indicate how many have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
            “We are delighted to be partnering with Mariposa, a company that not only delivers delicious gluten-free products to those who require the diet, but also demonstrates their commitment to the community with substantial efforts to help raise much-needed awareness and funds,” said Carol M. Shilson, executive director at The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. “Our programs and services educate thousands of consumers and medical professionals across the country each year and our research is truly leading the way to a cure.”

Event Details: May 1 – 31, 2013
- Locations: Mariposa’s Bakeshops:
o   Oakland Bakeshop: 5427 Telegraph Ave., D3, Oakland, CA 94609
o   SF Bakeshop: 1 Ferry Building Plaza, Shop 32, San Francisco, CA 94111
o   Tel: 510-595-0955

For more information about this event, details about this partnership or celiac disease, please visit: For information about The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, please visit:  

About The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center:
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center is an international center of excellence providing comprehensive patient and professional education, expert diagnosis and treatment for both children and adults, groundbreaking bench and clinical research, and active leadership in advocacy efforts. The Celiac Disease Center is part of the University of Chicago, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

About Mariposa Baking:
Our start was simple.Patti Furey Crane, Mariposa’s founder, craved high-quality sweets while pregnant with her first child. Finding few options at the time, she set out baking them herself. And so, in 2004, Mariposa was hatched. Mariposa’s mission – create wholesome, hand-crafted food using the finest natural ingredients. Our certified green bakery also houses our first retail bakeshop. We have two storefront locations, uor Oakland Bakeshop and our new SF Bakeshop, est. 2012 and located inside the Ferry Building, where we’re able to bring daily bread and hand-crafted sweets to San Francisco’s gluten-free community. We have an online store for customers outside of the Bay Area, distribution to natural foods stores on the West Coast and we service many local restaurants with our artisan breads and pizza crusts. We have a passion for- the baked goods we make, the creative journey we’re on, and the communities we serve.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The beginning of something new...

In last week's blog post I posted in black and white that I was setting out on a 'cooking quest' of sorts, to create a new meal each week using a different recipe(s) from my plethora of lovely cookbooks that sit in my kitchen looking so pretty and collecting dust. I realized after I posted that lofty statement this could be quite a commitment and one that might be challenging to live up to, however, a great chance to be inspired and learn some new "moves" in the kitchen!

I decided on Wednesday that I was going to cook something from Cristina Ceccatelli Cook's third and newest cookbook titled, "Cristina's of Sun Valley - Con Gusto!" It's a beautiful book loaded with her native Italian recipes and beautiful photos. In this book she's also includes many gluten free recipes, which I'd like to think were written just for me considering I'm a loyal customer of hers, but I'm seriously doubting that I was her inspiration. The irony of choosing one of her recipes, having only received her new book in the mail the week prior, was that Cristina actually called me this same day! It's not often that your phone rings and the caller ID states, "Cristina - Sun Valley" calling. Ironically, I had called her restaurant the day before to place an order of gluten free focaccia bread and a few other items. (If I haven't mentioned before, Cristina's in Sun Valley makes the best GF bread I've ever eaten!) Because Cristina is an amazing business woman and fastidious over attention to detail, she personally called me back to double-check my order and chat about a possible gluten free article I'd interviewed her for a while back. It's always such a pleasure to speak with her. She has a vivacious personality backed with kindness and yes, amazing talents in the kitchen. During our phone conversation I was also able to congratulate her on such a beautiful third cookbook telling her that I'd be preparing one of her dishes for my blog post.

The choice for this post was easy - it's the first week of spring and I wanted to create a meal that was lighter yet loaded with nutrition, flavors, and color. I was stopped in my tracks on page 125 when I saw this gorgeous photo of black cod in a salsa verde - perfectly seared and resting on the most lovely white plate. That's it, I proclaimed! Then I moved onto find a typical Italian recipe for sautéed spinach, chard and kale...three of my absolute leafy greens. And finally, who can resist the nutty and rich flavor of quinoa with chopped green onions for a zip and some color.

There it is menu for this week's spring blog post!

I really wanted to do Cristina's beautiful recipes only shortfall came in the cooking of the cod. Why is it that cod prepared in a restaurant always stays in ONE PIECE, never falling to pieces as it does every time I've cooked it at home?! Can someone please answer this for me? Sorry Cristina...I did my best, but the flavors were terrific.

Black Cod in Salsa Verde ~
Serves 6 (feel free to modify depending upon needed servings)

- 2 Pounds black cod, cut in 6 pieces

- 2 Cups Italian parsley leaves

- 2 Cloves garlic

- 1 Tbsp. capers, plus 1 tsp. caper juice

- 1 Oil-packed anchovy

- 2 Tsp. red wine vinegar

- 1/2 Cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest

- 6 lemon wedges

Rince the cod and set aside to dry while you make the salsa verde.

On a cutting board, finely chop the parsley with the garlic, capers and anchovy. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the caper juice and vinegar. Stir in 7 tablespoons of the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In bowl, toss the cod with 2 tablespoons of salsa verde.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the cod, skin up, and cook over high heat 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the fish and cook 3 minutes, or until the cod flakes.

Transfer the cod to a warm serving plate, spoon a little salsa verde over the fish, and sprinkle the lemon zest. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sautéed Spinach, Chard & Kale ~ 
Serves 4

- 2 Pounds spinach, chard or kale (I cooked all three)

- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

- 1 Clove garlic, thinly sliced

- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Blanch greens in boiling, salted water 2 to 3 minutes for spinach, 8 to 10 minutes for chard and kale. Drain and squeeze out water, and sauté with olive oil and garlic 1 minute. Add a little lemon juice before serving.

If you are not going to use all of your greens immediately, squeeze into balls and refrigerate until later...but I'm betting that you'll eat them all.

The finished product was really lovely and the flavors all worked well together. Though the fish prep seems a big lengthy, it's really an easy meal to put together. For more amazing recipes that you will absolutely devour, pick up one of Cristina's beautiful cookbooks - you'll be very pleased that you did.

Con Gusto!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The last winter recipe...

As these long and dark winter days quickly slip by making way for spring that's just around the corner...literally, I've decided to post one final winter recipe that's perfect for a cozy night in.

Lentils always conjure up the idea of flavorful, heartier meals and they are so darn versatile. I love them...almost as much as quinoa...not that they are in competition, however. They actually go quite well together in colder salads, but that's another recipe. For this dish I decided to utilize everything I had in my fridge that would compliment lentils and add some good flavors. I found some fresh, organic zucchini, some red peppers, a shallot and ohhhh  yum, some delicious sausages that added just the right amount of smokey flavor and some robustness to the dish. This is how I cook most days...always keeping fresh essentials stocked in the 'crisper' but usually making dishes up on the fly, seasoning as I go along and experimenting with flavors. Of course, this adds to the risk factor of cooking something that could turn out to be disastrous or mis-measured, etc. but I kind of enjoy taking my chances. However, with that statement made...I have some new news!

Beginning next week my blog is going to become the "testing ground" and post for a recipe a week...meaning, I'm going to do my best to choose a new recipe every Thursday or Friday evening from the plethora of cookbooks I have in my library (that look so pretty, yet are rarely utilized!), and feature the results here...along with photos and discussion around the cookbooks themselves! Fun and a big undertaking, but as I was trekking my way around the reservoir this afternoon the idea hit me...and it's sticking. I'm excited!

Back to the lentil and sausage with sautéed veggies...I ended up cooking an insane amount of lentils which lasted me for several days, but you can certainly cut down or add to this recipe very easily.

- 2 cups freshly cooked French lentils, 1 cup cooking liquid reserved

- 2 organic spiced sausage (of your choice - pre-cooked) 

- 1/2 cup organic gluten-free vegetarian broth 

- 2 organice medium zucchini 

- 1 cup red and yellow peppers (marinated are best)

- 1 medium shallot, minced

- 2 Tbsp. feta cheese

- 2 Tbsp. olive oil 

- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

- 1 tsp. organic garlic salt

- sea salt and pepper to taste

Keep lentils warming in a separate pot (add the broth in with the lentils) while you sauté the shallots in olive oil until tender. Then add in thinly sliced zucchini and peppers. Sauté all ingredients until al dente, then add in the sliced sausages adding with them the red pepper, garlic salt along with salt and pepper (to taste). Cook all for 6-8 minutes on medium flame to meld flavors.

Serve cooked lentils on bottom of the plate and then gently add the sausage and vegetable mix over the lentils, as desired. Allow to cool for a minute then add the feta cheese. Given the heartiness of this dish, I chose to forgo any starches and instead, paired with a lovely glass of merlot. A sliced pear was the perfect dessert.