Four-star chocolate from a four-star chef.
When Thomas Keller of the French Laundry makes a chocolate bar, you just know it’s not going to be your run-of-the-mill candy.
Not by a long-shot.
What makes this chocolate bar so different and special is that it contains extra virgin olive oil. And naturally, it’s olive oil by one of Italy’s most exclusive producers, Armando Manni. The Tuscan producer makes some of the most cherished and expensive olive oils around, beloved by illustrious chefs such as Keller and New York’s Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Their collaboration is K+M Extravirgin Chocolate. The premium cocoa beans are processed in a way that maintains their antioxidants that are normally destroyed in the chocolate-making process. A small amount of Manni extra-virgin olive oil is added to boost the level of antioxidants even more.
Duck carnitas tacos — a must-order at Olla Cocina.
The weather outside may be wet and dreary at this time of year, but you’d never know it from the inside of downtown San Jose’s Olla Cocina.
The casual Cal-Mexican eatery opened last summer after the building was revamped, giving it a playful design that makes you feel like you’re sitting on the terrace of a hacienda even if you’re completely protected from the elements. On a beautiful summer day, though, the glass garage doors at the front retract to let the sunshine in.
The soaring space was designed by restaurateur Doug Washington of San Francisco’s Town Hall fame. The colorful dining room is set off by a patterned tile floor, a reclaimed wood pergola, painted cinder-block wall, shoes hanging from overhead wires, and eye-catching Dia de los Muertos wallpaper. There are even a couple of swinging rattan egg-shaped chairs that just beg to be sat in.
Day of the Dead wallpaper.
Bringing the feel of the outdoors in.
There’s also a private dining room upstairs with a massive wood table, an old church pew, and framed historical photos on the walls.
My new addiction.
Ever since discovering the joys of butter mochi in Hawaii a few years ago, I’ve been on a mochi kick.
I can’t get enough of the chewy, bouncy texture that sweet rice flour gives to baked goods.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to take a plane across the Pacific — only a drive to the East Bay to get my latest fix.
After hearing the praises of the mochi muffins made by Pastry Chef Sam Butarbutar, I finally had a chance to buy a few ($3.50 each) when I dropped by Catahoula Coffee Co. on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Read more
Are you already dreading your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier?
Learn how to keep to your promise without giving up flavor or satisfaction when I host a heart-healthy cooking demo with Chef Pamela Keith in partnership with the American Heart Association’s Silicon Valley Chapter, 2 p.m. Jan. 14 at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara.
Keith is a classically trained chef who was culinary director of Draeger’s and helped Williams-Sonoma develop its cooking classes. She is now the owner of Burlingame’s CuisineStyle by Pamela Keith, a culinary event company that offers catering, as well as cooking parties and team-building classes. She is also the owner of the inviting Taylor’s Bay Cafe in Burlingame, named for her daughter.
Despite wrestling with a shortage of cooks, skyrocketing rents, rising business costs, and ever increasing competition, restaurants in the Bay Area and elsewhere did themselves proud this year, turning out food that was delightful, delicious, and unforgettable.
What dishes do I still dream about long after taking the last bite?
Here are my Top 10 eats of the year, in no particular order, of which I’d gladly have seconds, even thirds, if I could.