Author Archives: foodgal

A Visit to Acacia House — Where You Might Never Want to Leave

Chef Chris Cosentino in the kitchen of Acacia House.

Chef Chris Cosentino in the kitchen of Acacia House.

 

How do you jump-start a long-empty 1907 mansion in St. Helena and bring it into the 21st century?

You hire San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino to showcase his patented blend of the bold and the finessed to a glorious new restaurant there, called Acacia House. That’s just what the developers behind the new Las Alcobas Hotel did when it opened earlier this summer on Main Street.

The property, the first by the Mexico City-based luxury hotel group, blends Old World with New World in a posh setting that still somehow manages to feel grounded and unpretentious. That’s what I found when I was invited as a guest of the resort one night last month.

The restaurant is housed in the original mansion, once a private residence, then a B&B. It still has a sense of grandness with its wrap-around porch, where diners can enjoy a drink or a meal.

A historic mansion houses the restaurant.

A historic mansion houses the restaurant.

The dining room.

The dining room.

The decor.

The decor.

The big white house is still what you see from the front of the road. But venture to the back of the property, and the look becomes strikingly more modern with the hotel part done up in sleek steel, stone and wood.

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Portobello Mushroom & Celery Salad with Black Garlic Crumbs

Black garlic and portobellos are a heavenly combination.

Black garlic and portobellos are a heavenly combination.

 

Black garlic is gold.

If you haven’t yet tried this ingredient, it’s high time that you did.

Whole bulbs of garlic are cooked at a low temperature over several weeks to completely caramelize them. The result is garlic without its acrid aggressiveness. Instead, it is the flavor of dark molasses crossed with balsamic, along with the butteriness of garlic. It adds a jolt of umami to anything. The cloves turn squishy, sticky, and yes, black.

Just squeeze the cloves out of their papery skin to use them, chopped or pureed in vinaigrettes, stir-fries, spread on crostini, or rubbed on steaks, chicken or fish before cooking.

Discover the joys of black garlic.

Discover the joys of black garlic.

Black garlic is available in packages at gourmet groceries, Whole Foods, and on Amazon.

“Portobello Mushroom & Celery Salad with Black Garlic Sourdough Crumbs” is an ideal way to get your fix of black garlic goodness.

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Any Time is Right For Dumpling Time

The giant soup dumpling at Dumpling Time that's become a social media darling.

The giant soup dumpling at Dumpling Time that’s become a social media darling.

 

Since opening in May, Dumpling Time in San Francisco has been the dumpling destination.

Folks start lining up on weekends long before the restaurant opens for dinner at 5:30 p.m., jotting their name down on a clip board to snag one of the 70 seats inside or 20 on the front patio. That’s the scene I witnessed when I dined there as a guest of the restaurant a few weeks ago. Even after I demolished the contents of my last steamer basket and departed, there was still a throng of people queued up patiently at the entrance.

Who doesn’t love dumplings, right? Especially traditional ones given a contemporary flair with delicious fillings, colorful wrappers, and social media pizazz?

That’s what you’ll find at this casual, affordable South of Market Street establishment from the same restaurant group that owns the more rarefied Omakase nearby.

Dumplings made by hand, fresh, day and night.

Dumplings made by hand, fresh, day and night.

My husband and I were seated at the table on the patio directly beside a window that peeks into the restaurant’s dumpling-making room. That’s where the magic happens throughout the day and night, as a small crew meticulously stuffs and folds dumpling after dumpling at lightening speed. Chef Do Leung, who was born in Guandong, China and was most recently at Tai Wu restaurant in Millbrae, oversees the kitchen.

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Brooklyn Crafted Delivers On A Potent Ginger Taste

Unfiltered and with a nice burn down the throat.

Unfiltered and with a nice burn down the throat.

When it comes to food, I am not a fan of blow-your-brains-out spiciness.

But when it comes to ginger beer, well, that’s another story.

Bring it.

When I was invited to try a sample of Brooklyn Crafted Extra Spicy Ginger Beer, that’s exactly what my response was.

The spicier the better, when it comes to my beloved ginger.

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A Taste of San Jose’s Michelin All-Star Experience

Portuguese olive oil showcased in four ways in this dazzling cake at Adega.

Portuguese olive oil showcased in four ways in this dazzling cake at Adega.

 

Carlos Carrerira beamed with pride last Wednesday evening as he started to introduce his daughter before the assembled throng of media and San Jose officials gathered at his family’s Adega restaurant for a celebratory dinner.

“This all started when my daughter decided to skip UCLA and go to cooking school instead,” he said with a smile.

This referred to the little restaurant that could, and how. Last year, before it even turned a year old, the Portuguese restaurant in the working-class neighborhood of Little Portugal garnered the first Michelin star ever in San Jose.

When Carreira’s daughter, Pastry Chef Jessica Carreira, who oversees the restaurant with her fiance, Chef David Costa, stepped into the dining room, she was greeted with a standing ovation.

Tears welled in her eyes, as the applause went on and on.

As her father explained, when his daughter got the idea to open a restaurant with his help along with his wife’s, Fernanda, he assumed she would do so in San Francisco or Palo Alto or Los Gatos. But she stuck to her guns. Jessica only wanted to open in the neighborhood she grew up in, and which she still calls home.

The all-star line-up of Portuguese chefs with a Michelin star: (L to R) Alexander Silva of Loco Lisbon, Jessica Carreira of Adega, David Costa of Adega, Pedro Lemos of Pedro Lemos, and George Mendes of Aldea.

The all-star line-up of Portuguese chefs with a Michelin star: (L to R) Alexandre Silva of Loco Lisbon, Jessica Carreira of Adega, David Costa of Adega, Pedro Lemos of Pedro Lemos, and George Mendes of Aldea.

Her instincts and loyalty paid off when Michelin put them on the global map. “It’s been so great,” she says. “We went from a secret foodie destination to a boom of people knowing about us, even in Portugal.”

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