Take A Load Off At El Molino Central

A trio of pork tacos at El Molino Central.

A trio of pork tacos at El Molino Central.

 

When a noted chef tells you the name of a restaurant he thinks is the very best in the Bay Area, your ears can’t help but perk up.

And when he reveals that it’s an unassuming taco joint, you really get intrigued.

Such was the case when I recently interviewed Chef Louis Maldonado for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle Food section about his favorite places in the Healdsburg area.

Maldonado, former chef of Spoonbar in Healdsburg and now culinary director of Mugnaini Imports in Healdsburg, was effusive in his praise for El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs. So much so that when I found myself in the area last week, I just had to try it, paying my own tab at the end.

The back of the restaurant.

The back of the restaurant.

El Molino Central is a tiny place with a tamale-sized kitchen. Inside, there’s barely room for two small tables, and the counter where you place your order. Lest you think you’ll have to eat your food standing up, you will find a cheerful patio in the back with picnic tables, covered by a trellis and a revolving ceiling fan. You’ll have to walk through the compact kitchen to get to it, though — or go out the front door and walk around the building to the back.

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Join the Food Gal and Chef Josiah Slone of Relish Gastro Lounge For A Cooking Demo

MacysRelishJoin yours truly when I host Chef Josiah Slone for a delectable cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara, 6 p.m. June 27.

Slone took over the iconic Sent Sovi restaurant in downtown Saratoga from Chef David Kinch, who went on to open Manresa in Los Gatos. After manning the fine-dining restaurant for nearly 13 years, Slone recently revamped the space into a more casual restaurant, Relish Gastro Lounge.

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Celebrating San Francisco with Harry & David, And A Food Gal Giveaway (Sponsored Post)

San Francisco-Inspired Gift Basket (photo courtesy of Harry & David)

San Francisco-Inspired Gift Basket (photo courtesy of Harry & David)

 

Even though I was born in San Francisco and have spent almost my entire life in the Bay Area, I admit that when I was younger I took this region for granted.

I remember spending college summers interning in Portland, OR and Boston, where the moment I told people where I was from, their faces would light up with envy. The same happened when I lived in South Florida.

It took living away to make me finally appreciate what was in my own backyard. Namely, a climate that is almost always comfortable; spoil-you-rotten pristine produce available year-round; a food scene other cities would kill for; a gorgeous setting with ocean, mountains and redwoods; and an educated, curious, multi-ethnic populace so often at the forefront of meaningful issues and trends.

Of course, these days, it’s also a breathtakingly exorbitant place to live, with nightmare traffic on the freeways, construction everywhere, and an increasingly frightening divide between the haves and the have-nots.

For all of that, though, I can’t ever imagine leaving. It is home. And always will be.

Harry & David recognizes just how special the San Francisco Bay Area is. That’s why it chose this area as one to spotlight in its new regional gift baskets. The other foodie areas celebrated with their own themed gift baskets are: Chicago, New York and Austin.

The San Francisco gift basket ($99.99) includes Cheddar Corn Chowder Soup Mix, Seafood Rub, sourdough loaf, Habanero Pineapple Seafood Glaze, Ghirardelli chocolates, a dishtowel imprinted with the San Francisco skyline, and a cute trolley-car cookie. It all comes packed in a woven basket.

For every regional gift basket purchased, 20 percent of net proceeds will be donated to food banks in those respective cities, including the SF-Marin Food Bank.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a Harry & David San Francisco-Inspired Gift Basket ($99.99 value). #TasteYourCity

Entries, open only to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST June 25. Winner will be announced June 27.

How to win?

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Five Favorite Memories of My Dad

My Dad relished the simple pleasures of this particular dish.

My Dad relished the simple pleasures of this particular dish.

 

1. My Dad never met a sweet he didn’t like. I think that’s where I get my own ginormous sweet tooth from. When my husband and I would visit on a lazy afternoon, toting an apple pie, he’d hurry to cut himself a slice even though dinner was just an hour or two away. I think he considered it his version of an appetizer.

2. Watching my Dad walk the aisles of his office at Greyhound, where he was a bookkeeper, and where my brothers and I all spent summer vacations helping out at temp jobs there. People would smile as he went by their desks, and he’d always have a friendly hello for each and everyone. It was the first time I saw my Dad as more than just Dad. I cherished seeing the respect he got from his co-workers there.

3. Crazy father-daughter dance sessions when I was a youngster. I remember putting a record on the turntable (yes, remember those!) as we’d just let loose, shimmying and shimmering together, giggling loudly the whole time, until the song ended, and we were exhausted as much by all the belly-laughing as by the dancing.

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Fire Up The Grill For Chicken Thighs With Sweet Apricot-Hoisin Glaze

A crowd-pleaser: Grilled chicken with a sticky apricot-hoisin glaze.

A crowd-pleaser: Grilled chicken with a sticky apricot-hoisin glaze.

 

When planning a backyard summer barbecue, it’s not always easy to find a fuss-free, yet exciting-tasting dish that will satisfy all guests, from kids to adults.

“Chicken Thighs with Sweet Apricot-Hoisin Glaze” fits that bill perfectly.

Before grilling, the bone-in, skin-on thighs get rubbed with a simple mix of garlic powder, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and chile powder (just a smidge so as not to scorch tender palates).

A quick glaze comes together in a flash on the stovetop. It’s just a mixture of apricot preserves, hoisin sauce, lemon juice and minced fresh ginger that gets brushed on the chicken pieces as they cook.

NewAmericanBarbecueBook

The recipe is from the new “Weber’s New American Barbecue: A Modern Spin On The Classics” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy. It’s written by the Bay Area’s Jamie Purviance, a master griller who not only attended The Culinary Institute of America, but Stanford University, as well.

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