Napa Truffle Festival

Friday, 23. January 2015 5:27 | Author:

Black Perigord truffles. The darker ones have been peeled already, hence their deeper black color.

Black Perigord truffles. The darker one has been peeled already, hence its more pronounced color.

 

Carefully tucked inside Chef Ken Frank’s walk-in at La Toque restaurant in Napa last weekend sat 20 pounds of prized black Perigord truffles. Valued at more than $13,000 — wholesale.

They were destined to be the highlight of dinners, cooking demos and special restaurant offerings during last weekend’s Napa Truffle Festival.

And they all came from Italy.

For the past five years that this festival has been held, all the truffles used have been picked in Italy and flown in three days later to Napa.

But some day soon — possibly as early as this coming winter — black Perigord truffles may be harvested right here in Wine Country.

That’s because a burgeoning industry is taking root in Napa and Sonoma counties, as vintners and other property owners are gambling on growing truffles.

The American Truffle Company, which organizes the festival, has partnered with these interested folks to sell and plant filbert and oak trees that have been inoculated with the truffle fungus.

Chef Ken Frank holding a plate of black truffle risotto with quail that was made in a demo by Chef Roberto Donna.

Chef Ken Frank holding a plate of black truffle risotto with quail that was made in a demo by Chef Roberto Donna.

Close-up of the risotto.

Close-up of the risotto.

Once the trees are planted, it takes about five years for truffles to form. This winter, the trees of vintner Robert Sinskey, the first local client that signed on with the American Truffle Company, will be reaching that mark. His may become the first Perigords to be harvested in Sonoma County. Already this year, teams of truffle-hunting dogs have shown a much greater interest in his 1 1/2-acre orchard than ever before, Sinskey says, indicating truffles may indeed be forming under his trees.

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Piggish for Tea

Wednesday, 21. January 2015 5:26 | Author:

Steeping my Teapigs.

Steeping my Teapigs.

 

I am piggish for tea after trying samples of Teapigs.

I mean, you just gotta love the name right off the bat, right?

Plus, you have to smile at a tea company that has a sense of humor. Its Chamomile tea has a drawing of an easy chair on the package, while its Chili Chai is decorated with an image of a fire extinguisher.

The company is called Teapigs because the the founders are greedy for great teas. Get it?

On top of that, the company, which started in the United Kingdom in 2006 and opened a New York branch last year, works with the communities from where it sources tea to try to improve them in some way. Case in point, it’s now helping raise money for the Noel Orphanage in Rwanda, which is located in the same region where Teapigs produces its English Breakfast blend.

Of course, the real question is how does the tea taste?

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce

Monday, 19. January 2015 5:26 | Author:

Butternut squash gets drizzled with Sriracha-spiked yogurt and more.

Butternut squash gets drizzled with Sriracha-spiked yogurt and more.

 

He has been dubbed a genius with vegetables.

His cooking may not be vegetarian per se, but Yotam Ottolenghi, the chef-owner of four London restaurants, definitely is a champion of putting vegetables front and center, in especially vibrant ways.

His three previous cookbooks have all been best-sellers: “Ottolenghi,” “Jerusalem,” and “Plenty.” No doubt, his fourth one, “Plenty More” (Ten Speed Press), also will top the charts.

In this cookbook, of which I received a review copy, Ottolenghi continues his foray into dazzling veg-centric dishes such as “Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onion,” “Iranian Vegetable Stew with Dried Lime,” and “Grilled Banana Bread with Tahini and Honeycomb.”

PlentyMoreBook

At this time of year, I love roasting winter squashes. But I’m always looking for new ways to accent them. “Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce” fit the bill perfectly.

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Chef James Syhabout Helping Oakland Schools, Restaurant Weeks & More

Friday, 16. January 2015 5:26 | Author:

Chef James Syhabout gives back to Oakland schools. (Photo courtesy of the chef)

Chef James Syhabout gives back to Oakland schools. (Photo courtesy of the chef)

Chef James Syhabout’s Dine About Oakland Public Schools Initiative

Oakland’s native son and only Michelin-starred chef, James Syhabout has launched “Dine About Oakland Public Schools.” Under the initiative, 5 percent of all sales in January at his Oakland restaurants, Hawker Fare, Box & Bells, The Dock, and Commis, will be donated to a designated Oakland school.

Through Jan. 17, proceeds will go to Claremont Middle School. From Jan. 18-24, funds will go to Chabot Elementary. And from Jan. 25-31, proceeds will benefit Oakland  Tech.

Restaurant Weeks

Chef James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare, Box & Bells, and The Dock also will be among the restaurants participating in Oakland Restaurant Week, Jan. 15-25.

For those 10 days, a slew of restaurants will be offering special prix-fixe lunch and/or dinner menus for $20, $30 and $40.

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Fall In Love with Arborio Rice Bread from Della Fattoria

Wednesday, 14. January 2015 5:26 | Author:

My new favorite bread.

My new favorite bread.

 

I am madly, deeply, crazy as a loon in love.

With this bread.

It’s a solid loaf. It has a beguiling character owing to an unusual backbone of arborio rice. It has every quality you’ve dreamed about in the perfect bread. In short, it’s a keeper.

And I was smitten at the first chewy bite.

Naturally, the recipe comes from one of my favorite bread bakeries — Della Fattoria in Petaluma, where owner Kathleen Weber and her family turn out artisan loaves baked in a wood-fired oven on their ranch. They are breads full of flavor and integrity. Among the first restaurants they supplied was the French Laundry in Yountville, which tells you just how extraordinary the products are.

“Arborio Rice Bread” is from their new cookbook, “Della Fattoria Bread” (Artisan), complete with 63 recipes for everything from Della Fattoria’s signature Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Campagne Boule to Spicy Cheddar Crackers to Sticky Buns.

DellaFattoriaBook

It appealed to me for its intriguing use of risotto-style rice and because it’s one of the more streamlined recipes in the book as it doesn’t require a starter.

Making bread always takes time and patience. It’s never a quick process. But this particular recipe doesn’t require much heavy-lifting. It also makes two loaves, so you’re amply rewarded after an afternoon of work.

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