Category Archives: Chefs

Christmas Biscuits? Why Not!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

 

As you ready to open presents this Christmas morning or prepare for the big holiday feast to come tonight, wouldn’t a pan of fresh, warm biscuits hit the spot?

Imagine them slathered with sweet butter and marmalade for breakfast today or alongside glazed ham tonight.

Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine sure is.

Biscuits don’t get any easier or more irresistible than these from Howard Bulka, chef-owner of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto and Redwood City.

The Palo Alto location is all about pizza. The Redwood City one, with its much larger and fully equipped kitchen, goes beyond the charred, flavorful pies to include everything from house-made pasta to classic burgers, too.

What’s more, the Redwood City one also offers weekend brunch, which includes an astonishingly great array of baked goods. This is where you’ll often find these heavenly biscuits offered.

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Fried Chicken, Paella, and More At Citrus at the Valencia Hotel

Let the good times roll at Citrus in the Valencia Hotel.

Let the good times roll at Citrus in the Valencia Hotel.

 

Chef Ocean Orssten acknowledges his parents were hippies who happened to be living in Capitola at the time he was born. Hence his unusual first name.

But the chef with the water-themed moniker also knows the land equally well. He grew up in the Napa Valley, raising heritage breed pigs at age 12 and developed a love for agriculture.

Is it any wonder that by the time he was a young teen, he knew he wanted to be a chef?

After stints at Arcadia in San Jose, La Folie in San Francisco, and Campton Place restaurant in San Francisco, Orssten took over the helm at Citrus at the Valencia Hotel in San Jose’s Santana Row in 2011.

It’s a restaurant I’ve longed wish more people would find out about. You have to know it’s there, as it’s not at visible at street level as all the other eateries at Santana Row. Instead, you have to take an elevator up to the third floor to get to it. But that trek rewards you once you arrive with a tucked away, intimate dining room that feels cloistered from the hubbub of the rest of the retail-residential center around it.

An unexpected and delightful goat arepas.

An unexpected and delightful goat arepas.

Recently, I was invited in as a guest to try Orssten’s recently revamped menu. There’s the expected rib eye and flatiron steak. But also offerings you don’t expect. Like the Jamaican curry goat arepas ($14). The stewed goat was tender and full of flavor atop the soft corn arepas. The poblano creme fraiche added a smoky, creamy heat, though, there may have been too much of it on the plate.

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From Truck to Storefront: San Francisco’s Del Popolo

Winter squash pizza at the new Del Popolo restaurant.

Winter squash pizza at the new Del Popolo restaurant.

 

After three years of rumbling around San Francisco, the hulking Del Popolo pizza truck — with its 5,000-pound oven hauled around in a deconstructed shipping container — has finally added a real brick-and-mortar venue.

Opened just about a month ago on Bush Street in Nob Hill in a 1,700 square foot space once used by a theater company, the new pizza joint is as full of character as its justly famous pies.

The centerpiece, of course, is the imported Italian wood-fired brick oven easily viewed from anywhere in the small dining room.

The dark gray walls enclose the space with a sense of coziness. The plethora of “Soviet-style” oil paintings hanging all over the walls add whimsy. Owner Jon Darksy apparently purchased them all online and put them on display in a nod to Del Popolo’s name, which translates to “of the people.” General Manager Essam Kardosh says the staff has so taken to them that they’ve made up back stories for each of them.

The blazing wood-fired oven.

The blazing wood-fired oven.

The fun, eccentric decor.

The fun, eccentric decor.

When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, the place was already humming and packed when I arrived at 6 p.m.

You may come here for the pizza. But don’t neglect the rest of the menu, which is overseen by Chef de Cuisine Jeffrey Hayden, who has worked at wd50 in New York; Blackbird and Alinea, both in Chicago; and Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland.

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Introducing Cookies & Beer — Really!

Would you like a cookie with your beer?

Would you like a cookie with your beer?

 

If you’re like me and usually associate drinking beer with noshing on salty, savory or spicy foods, then you’re in for a delightful surprise with “Cookies & Beer” (Andrews McMeel).

The fun little book, of which I received a review copy, is by Jonathan Bender, a Kansas City-based journalist and founder of Recommended Daily, a site devoted to local food news.

Bender solicited cookie recipes from chefs around the country. With each, he’s paired a specific beer, and tells you his reasoning behind his picks. It will definitely make you see beer — and cookies — in a new light.

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Saluting Sunchokes (With A Caveat)

Get to know sunchokes.

Get to know sunchokes.

 

They look like the love child of ginger and potatoes.

They taste deliciously nutty, sweet and a bit artichoke-like, and have a a texture akin to a creamier water chestnut.

Do you know sunchokes?

These knobby tubers are also known as Jerusalem artichokes.

They’re a pain to peel, as you can imagine. They’re also not easy to find in stores. I’ve bought them at Sprouts and Draeger’s in the past.

And for some people, unfortunately, they are not easy to digest. In fact, their nickname is, um, “fartichokes.” You can read more about that in this enlightening — and slightly amusing — Bon Appetit article.

If you’re trying them for the first time, you probably want to go easy on how many you eat just to see how well your body takes to them.

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