What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 7

A Brunello worth seeking out.
A Brunello worth seeking out.

Frescobaldi CastelGicondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Transport yourself to Tuscany with a sip of Frescobaldi CastelGicondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015, a big, bold, inky wine that lingers on the palate, giving you plenty of time to daydream any troubles away.

Made by a winery with more than 700 years in the business, this Italian beauty ($69) is made with Sangiovese grapes that have attained Italy’s highest classification.

With substantial tannins, this is a wine that will age gracefully. But if you’re like me, you’ll be impatient to uncork a bottle, as I admittedly was when I received a sample to try.

Blackberry, raspberry and evergreen are heady on the nose. On the palate, it’s rich with deep cherry, leather, earth, tobacco, and cinnamon.

Try it alongside roast leg of lamb, a steak smothered in fresh rosemary, bolognese pasta or beefy Italian meatballs.

Cheers: If you mindlessly reach for a Cabernet Sauvignon to pair typically with red meat, next time try Brunello instead. Find this wine at Wine.com and Total Wine & More.


Whether it’s because we’re all sheltering at home now or maybe social-distance picnicking in parks, canned wine sure seems to be having a moment.

One of the newest is WineSociety, founded by Angela Allison, who fell in love with the Napa Valley as she and her husband split their time between his tech work in San Francisco and their home in Cincinnati.

A trio of WineSociety's canned wines, which even comes with a plastic cap in case you can't finish the entire can.
A trio of WineSociety’s canned wines, which even comes with a plastic cap in case you can’t finish the entire can.

Made with California grapes, the wines come in 500ml cans, the equivalent of 2/3 of a bottle, making for two generous-sized glasses for two people.

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Nik Sharma’s Beef Chilli Fry with Pancetta

An easy flank steak stir-fry with the unexpected addition of pancetta.
An easy flank steak stir-fry with the unexpected addition of pancetta.

Nik Sharma is not a triple, but a quadruple threat. And we’re all the better for it.

Writer, photographer, recipe developer, and food scientist, he does it all. And those talents are on big display in his new cookbook, “The Flavor Equation” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

Born in Bombay (Mumbai), Sharma studied molecular genetics at the University of Cincinnati, before getting a a full-time research job at Georgetown University’s Department of Medicine. His creative side soon took hold, though, as he started cooking his mother’s recipes, as well as developing his own, which he chronicled on his award-winning blog, A Brown Table.

That led to his first cookbook, “Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food” (Chronicle Books, 2018). His follow-up makes use of his science background even more, along with his always beautiful food photography.

Through more than 100 recipes, he teaches how certain techniques or ingredient additions can heighten brightness, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, savoriness, fieriness, and richness — the flavors that make food taste so good. Sharma also delves into how sight, sound, mouthfeel, aroma and taste all play into how we react to food.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 18

Tandoori lamb chops and garlic naan from Jalsa Catering & Events.
Tandoori lamb chops and garlic naan from Jalsa Catering & Events.

Jalsa Catering & Events, Milpitas and Bay Area

Its name means “celebrate,” and pre-pandemic, Milpitas-based Jalsa Catering & Events was all about that, catering lavish weddings and festive parties all over the Bay Area.

But of course, with large events — and pretty much gatherings of any sort — verboten right now, Jalsa has pivoted to being a meal delivery service instead.

The company was co-founded by Vittal Shetty, who for years was the corporate chef of the Bay Area’s Amber India restaurants; and Reshmi Nair, who was Amber India’s director of events and catering.

Delivery (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and pick-up are available on a schedule that depends on what city you live in: Monday and Friday, there’s delivery to San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, and Monte Sereno. Tuesday and Sunday, it’s Palo Alto, Los Altos, Atherton, Redwood City, San Mateo. Thursday, it’s San Carlos, Hillsborough, and San Francisco. Saturday, it’s Fremont, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Dublin, Hayward, and Danville. And Wednesday, pick-up is available at its Milipitas commercial kitchen.

A side salad of pomegranate, mung bean, onions and corn, with crisp taro chips.
A side salad of pomegranate, mung bean, onions and corn, with crisp taro chips.

You don’t know necessarily when the food will show up at your doorstep between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., but everything heats up well enough in the microwave or a skillet if you want to enjoy it hours later, as I found when I was invited to try some of the food gratis.

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Three Things To Enliven Shelter In Place, Part 1

“Food People Are The Best People”

There’s no denying that those in the food industry are struggling mightily during the pandemic. The new book, “Food People Are The Best People” (Acorn Press) spotlights how 129 renowned California food and beverage professionals are coping and what inspires them during this unprecedented time.

The book is by Oakland-based photographer and storyteller Kristen Loken, who also did the book, “This Is Oakland A Guide to the City’s Most Interesting Places” (Acorn), which published in 2014.

This new book features such local luminaries as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Charlie Palmer of the Charlie Palmer Collective, David Kinch of Manresa, Jen Biesty of Shakewell, Michelle Polzine of 20th Century Cafe, and Susan Feniger of Border Grill. Along with a beautiful portrait shot, there is a short Q&A with each of the featured professionals.

Purchase the book here: A regular copy is $35, a signed copy is $50, and a copy of the book along with a chance to get your own porch portrait taken by Loken is $295.

Fifteen percent of all profits will be donated to No Kid Hungry.

Season 2 of “Tanya’s Table”

Following the success of her debut podcast series, Oakland chef Tanya Holland launches season 2 of “Tanya’s Table” on Jan. 19.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 17

Five-spice ribs from Straits restaurant.
Five-spice ribs from Straits restaurant.

Straits, San Jose

There was a time when the Chris Yeo Group was the king of San Jose’s Santana Row, operating three restaurants in this retail-restaurant-housing complex.

Only one remains now, though — Straits. It was his first establishment at Santana Row, and the concept that really made a name for him when he first opened the original Straits in San Francisco (which shuttered long ago). These days, with Yeo mostly retired, it’s his son Julian who runs the restaurant operations.

With its lounge-y, nightclub-like vibe and seductively attired female servers — which can be a plus or minus, depending on your predilection — Straits always drew a lively crowd pre-pandemic. Now, with only takeout and delivery service, the atmosphere is obviously more subdued.

The unexpected hue of the coconut rice.
The unexpected hue of the coconut rice.

While its atmosphere may have overshadowed the food at times, Straits still serves up solid, satisfying Malaysian cuisine.

The braised pork belly buns ($16) come on squishy Hawaiian-bread-like slider rolls, with a succulent thick slice of pork, crisp cucumber, and sweet-tangy pickled onions.

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