Category Archives: Chefs

Take Five with Ming Tsai (The Sequel), On His Bay Area Connection, The First Dish He Ever Cooked, and The Only Food TV Show He Watches

Chef Ming Tsai preparing sliders at his Macy's Valley Fair demo. (Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey)

Chef Ming Tsai preparing sliders at his Macy’s Valley Fair demo. (Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey)

After interviewing celeb Chef Ming Tsai five years ago by phone, I finally had the chance last Thursday to spend time with him face to face, when I hosted him at his cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara.

The 51-year-old James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon in Massachusetts, star of “Simply Ming’’on PBS, and member of Macy’s Culinary Council, is also the ambassador for Family Reach, an organization that offers emotional and financial assistance to families with a child or parent afflicted with cancer.

More than 100 adoring fans turned out to watch Tsai cook salmon salad with citrus and pine nuts, shiitake and parmesan sliders, and almond-oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwiches.

Tsai is no stranger to the Bay Area, having been a sous chef at Silks at the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco way back when. His parents, Stephen and Iris, also live in Palo Alto. His father, a former rocket scientist in Dayton, OH, is a professor emeritus in aeronautics at Stanford University.

After lunching with their son that day at Lyfe Kitchen in downtown Palo Alto, Tsai’s parents drove down from Palo Alto to watch from the front row as their son cooked and captivated the audience with his quick wit.

Tsai joked that after he married his wife and she took his surname, she became her very own major. That’s because she became – wait for it, wait for it, and say it aloud – Polly Tsai.

As Tsai posed for photos and signed copies of his cookbook after the demo, he spoke in Mandarin to some elderly Chinese ladies, and even revealed that his name actually translates from Chinese into “brilliant dish.’’ How apropos is that?

Yours truly working the microphone as Ming cooks up a storm. (Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey)

Yours truly working the microphone as Ming cooks up a storm. (Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey)

The huge crowd that turned out for the demo. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

The huge crowd that turned out for the demo. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

What follows is a short interview I did with him prior to the demo.

Q: How old were you when you cooked for the first time?

A: I was 6. I made my own Duncan Hines cake – vanilla. I friggin’ loved it, taking the mix, adding egg and oil, and boom – cake!

My friends who were all out playing baseball made fun of me. They were like, ‘You’re doing what?’ But then I sold slices of cake to them for 25 cents each. Pretty smart, huh?

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Upscale Candy, Lobster Galore & More

Gummy Love Bento Box ($60). (Photo courtesy of Sugarfina)

Gummy Love Bento Box ($60). (Photo courtesy of Sugarfina)

Sugarfina Coming to Santana Row

Champagne gummy bears? Twenty-four-karat gold marshmallows? Absinthe chocolate cordials?

Nope, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill candies.

Sugarfina, an upscale candy shop out of Southern California, is set to open in San Jose’s Santana Row in August with those goodies and a whole lot more.

Founders Rosie O’Neill and Josh Resnick set about to create a decidedly adult candy store. That means combing the world for exquisite sweets that appeal to a more sophisticated adult palate rather than a child’s super sugary cravings.

Gold-leaf marshmallow. (Photo by Sugarfina)

Gold-leaf marshmallow. (Photo by Sugarfina)

The 883-square-foot shop will be located next to Donald J. Pliner.

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Look What Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Redwood City Is Cooking Up — A Sweet Surprise

Prosciutto and arugula pizza at the new Howie's Artisan Pizza in Redwood City.

Prosciutto and arugula pizza at the new Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Redwood City.

 

If you’re already a fan of Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Palo Alto, you’ll want to check out its second location, which just opened three weeks ago in downtown Redwood City.

If you’ve yet to experience Howie’s, here’s a great excuse to finally do so.

That’s because the second Howie’s is larger. The dining room is about the same size in both locations. But the Redwood City one boasts an expansive, heated patio that essentially doubles the seating capacity.

Howie’s in Redwood City also has a much more extensive menu. The Palo Alto location only has a pizza oven. The Redwood City location has that same primo oven, plus a full-on kitchen. That means you’ll not only find impeccable pizzas with what I think is probably the best crust in the Peninsula/South Bay, but also burgers, awesome fries, and desserts like banana cream pie and rhubarb crisp.

What’s more, this Howie’s also has a liquor license and a bar manager, Ryan Ingram, with some serious mixology chops. That means he’s making their own grenadine for the Scofflow ($11), a blend of Templeton rye, vermouth and lemon; and his own pineapple gum syrup for his namesake Ryan’s Pisco Punch ($10).

The large, heated patio seats as many as the dining room.

The large, heated patio seats as many as the dining room.

The dining room.

The dining room.

Cocktail action.

Cocktail action.

Chef-Owner Howard Bulka is already contemplating adding nightly blue plate specials. He also plans to start brunch service soon, which will include a very special treat you won’t want to miss. But more on that later.

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A Very Special Cooking Demo with Ming Tsai and the Food Gal at Macy’s

MacysMingTsai

Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara and yours truly, the Food Gal, are thrilled to welcome celeb Chef Ming Tsai for a cooking demo at 6 p.m., May 21.

A member of Macy’s Culinary Council, Tsai is the Yale-educated, James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of acclaimed Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon restaurants in Massachusetts, and host of “Simply Ming” on public television.

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Of Strawberries and Sweet Memories

Strawberries get blanketed by a super crisp topping.

Strawberries get blanketed by a super crisp topping.

 

Strawberries hold a trove of memories for me.

Of whipped cream-slathered, fresh strawberry layer cakes that my Dad toted home from Chinatown bakeries for a special treat.

Of bowls of berries hidden by a mountain of aerosol-spurted whipped cream my parents would sometimes indulge us with for dessert in summer.

Of aching quads after my girlfriends and I once spent an afternoon at a u-pick, plucking our own super ripe, juicy berries from rows of lush, low-lying plants.

And of the consternation my older brother felt when he tried to grow them in our own backyard, only to have the bugs gnaw away at most of them.

But in many ways, one of the most profound remembrances I have is not of the berries themselves, but of the small, green crisscross plastic baskets they come in.

Strawberries from the farmers market in their iconic basket.

Strawberries from the farmers market in their iconic basket.

Whenever I bring the berries home now from the farmers markets and empty them out of of their containers, I can’t help but think of those baskets.

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