Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Return Visit to Nombe in San Francisco

Chicken skin skewers at Nombe.

It’s never easy replacing a chef who has been with a restaurant since inception, especially one as talented as Nick Balla.

Balla opened the Japanese izakaya-style restaurant, Nombe in San Francisco, but departed at the end of last year. But not before creating quite the impression. Balla, who visits Japan regularly, is such an astute study of traditional Japanese cuisine that his techniques even impressed a group of visiting Japanese chefs at a conference in St. Helena last year.

Balla, who also lived in Budapest for three years,  is now at Bar Tartine in San Francisco, where’s he’s doing his take on Eastern European food.

Replacing him at Nombe is Vince Scofield, who was most recently at Ebb & Flow in San Francisco. He also was the opening executive chef at Kabuki Kitchen in San Francisco. In addition to Nombe, he’s also involved with Darwin Cafe and Taco Libre, both in San Francisco.

Whew, talk about a lot on his plate. But Scofield is giving it a valiant try at Nombe in the Mission District, a short drive from the Holiday Inn Civic Center San Francisco.

Recently, I was invited to be a guest at the restaurant to try his new dishes. The menu still has a wide array of small plates. Although you’ll find everything from grilled beef tongue to fried chicken livers to spicy grilled tripe, the menu is a little less progressive than it used to be.

The restaurant, a former taqueria and diner, is divided into two eclectic rooms. The back one is nightclub-dim, so definitely sit in the first room if you really want to see your food.

Taro chips with chunky edamame hummus.

Definitely have some sake, too, as the restaurant boasts more than 75 premium varieties to enjoy by the glass, flight or bottle.

Read more

Gourmet Jerky, Cookbook Recipes Finder & Curtis Stone

Krave's Basil Citrus Turkey jerky.

Craving Krave Jerky

When you think of jerky, no doubt it’s of those jaw-breaking, tough as shoe-leather strips sold at convenience stores and gas stations that you reach for only in desperation.

Now comes Krave Jerky, which is jerky you’ll actually want to eat.

The company was launched a year ago by Jens Hoj, former general manager of El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, and Jonathan Sebastiani, a winemaker whose family started Viansa Winery in Sonoma.

What sets these gourmet jerky products apart is that they’re actually tender, soft, moist and even sticky with marinade. They’re so meaty tasting that you almost feel like you might need a knife and fork to eat them. But rest assured, fingers work just fine.

The jerky comes in eight varieties, including Lemon Garlic Turkey, Sweet Chipotle Beef, and Grilled Sweet Teriyaki Pork. The Teriyaki Pork is the most tender of the bunch, with a candied-salty flavor of  a perfect Hawaiian plate lunch.

The Basil Citrus Turkey is the most toothsome of the bunch with a mild tang. Surprisingly, it also boasts the most calories at 100 per 1 ounce serving, compared to the 70-80 calories of the others. It also has the most sodium at 610 mg per serving, compared to the 140-400 mg of the others. But the turkey has 0 grams of fat, compared to 1.5-2.5 for the other flavors.

Jerky that actually won't hurt your jaw.

A 3.5-ounce package is $7.

But starting today, for a limited time only, Daily Gourmet is offering a deal on Krave Jerky. The new San Francisco-based company offers gourmet food products in special discounts for limited time offers to members, who are notified via email. Among the products that have been offered or will be are jams and vinegars from The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, and vegan cinnamon rolls by Berkeley’s Cinnaholic.

A five-pack of Krave Jerky will be $28 (includes shipping) on Daily Gourmet.

The company was started by David Rangel, formerly with Microsoft’s Corporate Strategy Group and an executive at Groupon; and Chad Jackson, a software and Internet entrepreneur.

CookBookKarma for Cookbook Aficionados

If you love to cook from cookbooks, take photos of your dishes and post the results on your blog, you’ll be glad to discover the new site, CookBookKarma.

Read more

Etoile’s Perry Hoffman — A Chef To Watch in the Future

Chef Perry Hoffman in the kitchen at Etoile.

Perry Hoffman, executive chef of Etoile at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, has quite the pedigree.

His grandparents, Sally and Don Schmitt, were the original owners of the French Laundry in Yountville, who turned a dilapidated building into a destination restaurant in 1978, before selling it in 1993 to a then down-on-his-luck chef named Thomas Keller.

At age 4, Hoffman played in the kitchen of the French Laundry, while his grandma cooked in the kitchen, his grandfather seated guests in the dining room, and his mom (Sally and Don’s daughter) arranged flowers and worked as a waitress in the dining room.

His Mom later started her own florist business, which still supplies the blooms to the French Laundry, as well as a host of Wine Country restaurants. His grandparents went on to buy the Philo Apple Farm in Mendocino County, once again turning a rundown property into a showcase. Today, it is an organic, biodynamic farm that grows 80 varieties of heirloom apples in a setting so picturesque that Pottery Barn does catalog shoots there.

Hoffman, 27, followed in his grandmother’s footsteps, working in restaurants since he was 15. His food is already quite refined and mature for his young age. In fact, two years ago, he became the youngest chef in the country to garner a Michelin star — an achievement that prompted Keller to send him a hand-written note and a bottle of Dom Perignon.

For the past three years, he’s overseen the kitchen at the elegant Etoile, the Napa Valley’s only fine-dining restaurant housed inside a winery.

Etoile, the only fine-dining restaurant inside a winery in the Napa Valley.

The serene dining room.

Starting the evening off with a rose from Domaine Chandon.

During fall and winter, too, there are apples aplenty on his menu, which, of course, come from the Philo Apple Farm. My husband and I couldn’t resist honing in on those particular dishes when we treated ourselves to dinner at Etoile in December. Choose either a seven-course chef’s tasting menu for $110 or a four-course tasting menu with options for $85. The latter is what we went with, though we added one additional dish.

Read more

Crisp-Chewy Fruity Cookie Squares

Buttery, sugary and filled with plump black currants and lemon zest.

There are times when I’m decidedly old-school.

I prefer a paper wall calendar — the big kind with pics of the Eiffel Tower or Berkeley Breathed characters  on it — to keep track of my appointments rather than my smart phone.

I like to hold a real book in my hands, not a Kindle.

I like to plop myself on the couch on Sunday mornings with the many sections of the New York Times stacked by my side, not an iPad with various newspaper apps loaded onto it.

And there are times when I just want a simple buttery cookie with nothing more than good ol’ dried fruit in it.

Old-school, but oh-so wonderful.

That’s just what “Pebbly Beach Fruit Squares” are. The recipe is from “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy: Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies” (Artisan), of which I received a review copy last year, by Berkeley’s doyenne of baking, Alice Medrich.

With turbinado sprinkled on top, these are kind of like a sugar cookie sandwich with a filling of your favorite dried fruit, such as prunes, apricots, cherries, dates, cranberries or even dried ginger. Medrich recommends a combo of ginger and cranberries for the winter holidays. I used some especially plump, dried black currants, which I toted back from Quebec last year.

Read more

Pebble Beach Food & Wine Extravaganza and Food Gal Giveaway

Team Lexus -- culinary-style. (Photo courtesy of Lexus)

The fourth annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine extravaganza rolls into town, April 28-May 1, with more than 70 top toques and 250 acclaimed wineries doing cooking demos, wine seminars and glam dinners at the picturesque Pebble Beach Resorts.

Among the who’s who of culinary talent who will be participating are: Tom Colicchio of “Top Chef”; Yigit Pura, winner of “Top Chef Just Desserts”; Charlie Trotter; Ming Tsai; Tyler Florence; and the one and only Jacques Pepin.

Ticket prices range from $100 for a single event pass to $4,750 for a VIP four-day pass.

If that’s too rich for your blood — and I’m sure for most of us, it definitely is — the Food Gal has another way for you to enjoy a little of the action.

Four lucky readers will each win an autographed apron. (Image courtesy of Lexus)

Contest: I’m thrilled to be giving away four Pebble Beach Food & Wine aprons signed by Daniel Boulud, Michael Chiarello, Dean Fearing, Christopher Kostow, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon, who are all part of the Lexus Culinary Masters team.

Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight May 1. Winners will be announced May 3.

How to win?

Read more

« Older Entries