authors archive

Build A Better Banh Mi

Monday, 1. September 2014 5:28

Banh mi fixiings: Sri Lankan Black Curry Chicken (foreground) and Citrusy Red Cabbage Pickles (back).

Banh mi fixiings: Sri Lankan Black Curry Chicken (foreground) and Citrusy Red Cabbage Pickles (back).

 

Banh Mi has been a touchstone in my life.

It all started years ago when I was part of a team of reporters at the San Jose Mercury News covering race and demographics. As part of our — ahem — research of various cultures and communities, we naturally tried to hit up as many ethnic restaurants at lunch time as possible. After all, what better way to learn about a culture than to immerse one’s self in its cuisine?

The first time I encountered the ubiquitous Vietnamese sandwich otherwise known as banh mi, I admit I was dubious. A fresh, satisfying sandwich for under $4? How could that be?

My low expectations matched the low price.

Of course, one bite was all it took to prove me wrong.

The sandwich was miraculous. A fresh baguette filled with lemongrass chicken, smooth pate, hot chiles, fresh herbs and the most deliriously wonderful slivers of pickled carrots and daikon. It was savory, fragrant, tangy and bright. It wasn’t a ginormous sandwich by American standards, but it was full of so much flavor and texture that it left you completely satiated.

What a bargain, too. In fact, my colleagues and I were so amazed at the bang for the buck that we jokingly started using the banh mi as our own personal form of currency.

The cost for the city of San Jose to add resources to its gang prevention efforts? That would be $3 million. Or as we liked to think of it: nearly 1 million Viet sandwiches.

Building the BART extension to San Jose? Politicians might call it $3.2 billion. We likened it to about 1 billion Viet shredded pork sammies.

Yeah, that’s how we rolled.

BanhiMiHandbook

My friend Andrea Nguyen’s newest cookbook, “The Banh Mi Handbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a copy, brought back all those zany and delicious memories.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category:Asian Recipes, General, Great Finds, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (3) | Author:

The Man You Should Thank For Your Love of Sugar Snap Peas

Friday, 29. August 2014 5:25

Calvin Lamborn's over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

Calvin Lamborn’s over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

 

TWIN FALLS, IDAHO — You may not be familiar with Calvin Lamborn’s name. But you know his delicious life’s work. He is the plant breeder responsible for creating the first commercially viable sugar snap pea in 1979.

It’s hard to imagine a time without those sweet, crunchy pea pods. But before Lamborn worked his magic, you couldn’t find sugar snap peas regularly at farmers markets or supermarkets. Oh, and those stringless sugar snap peas we all adore because they don’t have to be peeled? Yup, he created those, too.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

At 80 years of age now, Lamborn is not thinking about slowing down anytime soon. And top chefs in New York are sure thankful for that. Lincoln Ristorante, Union Square Cafe, The Breslin, wd-50 and more clamor to use his handiwork in their dishes — over-sized pea 52s that taste as sweet as candy, snap peas the bold color of a red chile pepper, and frilly pea leaves the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category:General, Great Finds, More Food Gal -- In Other Publications, New Products, Travel Adventures | Comments (2) | Author:

St. Helena’s Press Welcomes A Most Appropriate New Chef

Wednesday, 27. August 2014 5:25

The very clever carrot "hot dog'' at Press in St. Helena.

The very clever carrot “hot dog” at Press in St. Helena.

 

Earlier this summer, Press in St. Helena welcomed a new executive chef — Trevor Kunk, who was the chef de cuisine at Blue Hill New York for seven years.

It’s a most apropos choice, given that Blue Hill is renowned for its almost painstaking use of locally grown ingredients, including those from its own farms, and the fact that Press is very much a root-to-shoot, nose-to-tail steakhouse with the bulk of its provisions coming from its 13-acre Rudd Farms and Chef’s Garden.

In Kunk’s hands, the food at Press embodies the garden even more so now, as evidenced by my recent dinner there when I was invited in to dine as a guest of the restaurant. My dinner was a week ago, prior to last Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake in Napa. Fortunately, no damage occurred at Press, which is operating as usual.

Press was founded by Wine Country mover-and-shaker Leslie Rudd, who also owns Rudd Oakville Estate and Dean & DeLuca. The graceful restaurant was designed by Howard Backen, who has been responsible for the look of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Archetype in St. Helena, Kokkari in San Francisco, and a slew of premiere wineries including Harlan Estate, Ram’s Gate, Dana Estates and Bond Estates.

You can't miss the sign on Highway 29.

You can’t miss the sign on Highway 29.

The beautiful, light-filled dining room.

The beautiful, light-filled dining room.

The soaring barn-like restaurant fills with natural light, lending a casual but elegant ambiance. With an old-fashioned, hand-crank grape press as its logo, Press takes wine seriously. There are more than 1,500 Napa Valley selections, with a specialization in Cabernet Sauvignon, that you can thumb through on an electronic tablet. Or just put your hands in Sommelier Angela Stem’s hands. After all, with a surname like that, how can you go wrong?

Read the rest of this entry »

Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures, Wine | Comments (10) | Author:

A Sauce for Salmon That’s a Pure Taste of Sunshine

Monday, 25. August 2014 5:26

A simple sauce inspired this entire dish.

A simple sauce inspired this entire dish.

 

What do you get when you cook down fresh orange juice with lime juice?

The makings for a simple, sublime sauce that’s perfect for most anything.

The recipe for this easy “Citrus Sauce” first appeared in Everyday Food in September 2004. After cooking down the citrus juices, whisk in a little sugar, olive oil and Dijon mustard. That’s it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category:Asian Recipes, General, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (10) | Author:

A Summery Taste of Jardesca

Friday, 22. August 2014 5:25

A fun new summer sip.

A fun new summer sip.

 

In summer, nothing satisfies like something chilled, quenching and palate-awakening.

That’s what Jardesca delivers. The fortified wine is made in Sonoma by Roger Morrison and Marshall Dawson, who wanted to create a simple apertif suitable to begin any meal.

Recently, I had a chance to try a sample. The beautiful bottle looks right at home in a garden. Not surprising since Jardesca is made with an eau de vie infused with 10 botanicals, as well as a blend of sweet and dry white wines.

It’s designed to be served not only chilled but on the rocks, which is how I tried it. It’s dry and refreshing, with notes of orange peel, peppermint, grapefruit, mint and a whiff of warm baking spices. Even at 18 percent alcohol, it’s quite smooth with none of that fire at the back of the throat of other aperitifs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category:General, New Products, Spirits/Cocktails/Beer | Comments (2) | Author: