Category Archives: Chefs

Have a Very Dorie Christmas!

A sophisticated brownie with the intense taste of almonds.

A sophisticated brownie with the intense taste of almonds.

 

Include a little Dorie Greenspan in your Christmas to ensure it’s a sweet one.

Greenspan is a baker extraordinaire who also happens to be great at savory cooking too. She can do it all, and it shows in her many cookbooks, Washington Post column, and her wonderful Everyday Dorie blog that’s followed by legions around the world.

Her newest cookbook, “Dorie’s Cookies” (Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy, is a 518-page comprehensive cookie trove.

Cookie fans are sure to find something to love. Cookie Monsters like myself will be beside themselves trying not to make every single recipe at once.

doriescookiesbook

There are bar cookies, drop cookies, butter cookies, and even savory cocktail cookies. I’ve bookmarked so many of the recipes, including “Princeton Gingersnaps,” “Devil’s Food Wafflets with Chocolate Sauce,” and “Triscuity Bites” (yes, savory cookies made with cream cheese and crumbled Triscuits).

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Nancy Silverton’s Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not your average chocolate chip cookie.

Not your average chocolate chip cookie.

 

Does the world really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe?

You bet, if it’s by Nancy Silverton.

The renowned pastry chef can do no wrong. At least in my book. Over the years, I’ve made many of her recipes, and none have ever disappointed. She’s also the co-owner of my favorite pizza joint, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, as well as nearby sister restaurants Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca.

“Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies” is from her newest cookbook, “Mozza At Home” (Alfred A. Knopf), of which I received a review copy. It was written with James Beard Award-winning journalist Carolynn Carreno.

mozzaathome

It’s a dirty little secret that most chefs don’t cook much at home. They just don’t have the time. Silverton was the same way for many years, until a trip to Italy reconnected her to the pleasures of cooking for friends, family, and even herself.

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The Newest Il Fornaio Opens in Santa Clara Square

A bountiful Mare Chiaro at Il Fornaio in Santa Clara.

A bountiful Mare Chiaro at Il Fornaio in Santa Clara.

 

So conditioned are we these days to thinking negatively about chains that we often dismiss them without a second thought.

But bigger doesn’t always mean mediocre or less personalized.

Case in point: Il Fornaio.

The Italian restaurant chain started in the Bay Area, but now has 23 establishments not only throughout California, but also in Colorado, Virginia, Washington and Nevada.

I admit I hadn’t dined at one in quite awhile, even if I’d always had fine experiences at them, including when I held my wedding rehearsal dinner at the San Francisco locale years ago.

So, when I was invited in to dine as a guest at the newest Il Fornaio, which opened last month in the new Santa Clara Square retail-residential complex, I knew it would be satisfying, but I honestly had forgotten just how good the food really can be.

After all, it may be a chain, but it takes the time and effort to make its own breads and pastas, which is no easy feat. And it does so exceptionally well.

Fetching a bottle of wine.

Fetching a bottle of wine.

The Santa Clara restaurant is a huge 150-seat affair housed in a 6,200-square-foot building that has the air of a modern-day Tuscan farmhouse with soaring ceilings, weighty wood posts, a wide-open dining room, an open kitchen, and stylish glass-enclosed wine storage cases that reach to the ceiling and are accessible by a library ladder.

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Holidays at The Hotel Healdsburg

Holiday tea is served in style at the Hotel Healdsburg.

Holiday tea is served in style at the Hotel Healdsburg.

 

Sonoma Wine Country always sparkles, but even more so during the holidays.

With everything ablaze in festive lights, it’s a wonderland without the true toll of winter.

There’s no better place to experience it, too, than at the Hotel Healdsburg, as I found out when I was invited as an overnight guest recently.

The 56-room boutique hotel, right on the square, is co-owned by celeb Chef Charlie Palmer, who lives with his family just four miles away on a 36-acre spread. The hotel was his first venture upon moving to the area in 2001. It sports one of his restaurants, Dry Creek Kitchen, as well as a lifestyle store, Lime Stone, operated by his wife Lisa.

For the holidays, the hotel gets dressed up with strings of lights, and both tabletop and 6-foot-tall decorated trees. The contemporary fireplace in the lobby lounge is always aglow with a warm fire. Nearby is a help-yourself station where you can assemble your own cups of spiced cider or hot cocoa complete with cinnamon sticks or mini marshmallows.

Dry Creek Kitchen -- all done up for the holidays.

Dry Creek Kitchen — all done up for the holidays.

The lounge also has a full bar, with plenty of tables and chairs around the fireplace, to enjoy an afternoon glass of wine or morning breakfast, which is included in the price of the room.

Now through Dec. 23, the lounge also serves a popular Holiday Tea on weekends from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s $34 per person with tea and food; $43 with wine; and $14 for kids under 12 who get a choice of tea, cider or hot chocolate.

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The Long-Awaited Single Thread Finally Opens

Chef Kyle Connaughton in the kitchen of Single Thread, the restaurant-farm-inn he and his wife have dreamed for years of creating.

Chef Kyle Connaughton in the kitchen of Single Thread, the restaurant-farm-inn he and his wife have dreamed for years of creating.

 

Healdsburg’s Single Thread is an ambitious, high-end restaurant. It is an organic, sustainable farm. And it is a luxurious inn.

It is also the most hotly anticipated opening of the year.

Above all, it is a labor of love and dedication by husband-and-wife team Chef Kyle Connaughton and farmer Katina Connaughton.

After two long years of construction, it finally opened its doors to the public last Friday. I had a chance to check it all out at a media dinner held just a few days before that.

Connaughton’s impressive credentials include cooking at Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck in the United Kingdom and Michel Bras’ Toya Japon in Hokkaido. Katina learned the tenets of sustainability while working on a strawberry farm in Japan.

It was under construction for two years.

It was under construction for two years.

Just a few steps off the square.

Just a few steps off the square.

Together, that ethos of serene Eastern hospitality and utmost respect for the land imbue the restaurant, which they built almost from the ground up. The former post office right off the square was supposed to be a tasting room with lodging for Seghesio Vineyards. But when the winery was sold to Crimson Wine Group, the property became available. And the Connaughtons pounced on it for their dream restaurant.

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