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The Surprise of Chocolate, Thanks to Alice Medrich

Wednesday, 12. February 2014 5:26

Coq au vin -- with the surprising addition of chocolate. Perfect for Valentine's Day.

Coq au vin — with the surprising addition of chocolate. Perfect for Valentine’s Day.

 

Love has a way of lurking in unexpected places, where we least expect to find it.

So, too, does chocolate.

Take coq au vin, that classic stew of chicken simmered in red wine. Leave it to the Bay Area’s baker extraordinaire Alice Medrich to create a version that adds unsweetened chocolate.

It’s from her cookbook, “Seriously Bitter Sweet” (Artisan), of which I received a review copy. It’s the new paperback edition of her 2003 book, “Bitter Sweet.”

The little bit of chocolate adds a subtle earthiness and meatiness, as well as body to the sauce.

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Category:Chefs, Chocolate, General, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (8) | Author:

Hanging Out at Bar Terra in St. Helena

Friday, 7. February 2014 5:25

Chef-Owner Hiro Sone's likeness is the focal point of the bar at Bar Terra.

Chef-Owner Hiro Sone’s likeness is the focal point of the bar at Bar Terra.

In the Napa Valley, there are two Michelin three-star restaurants (the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood), plus a host of other swank, white-tablecloth establishments.

But sometimes what you’re in the mood for is something a little more casual. Something a little more eclectic. Yet still refined in execution.

Bar Terra fits that to a “T.”

Three years ago, Chef-Owner Hiro Sone and his wife, Pastry Chef-Owner Lissa Doumani, remodeled their 26-year-old, award-winning Terra restaurant in St. Helena. The doorway divides the two dining rooms. On the left remains the elegant, hushed Terra. On the right was created Bar Terra, a more laid-back, livelier spot with a liquor license that brought forth a new cocktail menu with the likes of the “Hirotini” (Sveda vodka, sake, ginger and cucumber; $10).

You’ll find locals filling the chairs at Bar Terra, nightly. Doumani makes the rounds, greeting every familiar face. And there are plenty of them.

It’s easy to see the attraction: Bar Terra’s prices are lower than Terra. You can come in jeans. And you can even mix and match — ordering off either Terra’s or Bar Terra’s menu or both.

That’s exactly what I did when a friend and I dined there over the winter. Although we paid our tab, dessert was on the house, compliments of Sone and Doumani, who knew us both.

Abalone and shrimp -- from the Terra menu that you still can enjoy if you want at Bar Terra.

Abalone and shrimp — from the Terra menu that you still can enjoy if you want at Bar Terra.

We stuck mostly to the Bar Terra menu with one exception: The salad of Ezo abalone with shrimp, butter beans, fennel and pickled Meyer lemon ($18.50) from the Terra menu just called out to me. It’s hard to resist fresh abalone the rare times it appears on a menu. It didn’t disappoint, either, with its sweet, tender yet toothsome flesh brightened by the citrus.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (4) | Author:

A Perfect Valentine’s Day Pairing, Dessert For Dinner, and More

Monday, 3. February 2014 5:27

A Valentine's Day gift that keeps on giving. (Photo courtesy of Eden Canyon Vineyards)

A Valentine’s Day gift that keeps on giving. (Photo courtesy of Eden Canyon Vineyards)

Eden Canyon’s Perfect Pair

Sure, I’m biased, but I do think that Eden Canyon Vineyards has come up with the perfect pairing for Valentine’s Day.

It’s a signed copy of my cookbook, San Francisco Chef’s Table (Lyons Press), along with a bottle of its 2010 “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, which won a gold medal in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

The $55.95 “Perfect Pair” gift set is just the ticket to set the mood. Uncork the wine, and cozy up to one another as you leaf through the book together to plan your next cooking adventure or the next Bay Area restaurant you most want to visit.

The winery, the only estate-owned Filipino-American one in the country, is in the Paso Robles Appellation. The wine is made by Danny Villamin and his daughter, Elaine Blackaby.

Presidio Social Club Cocktails To Take Home

If you’ve visited Presidio Social Club in San Francisco, you know they make a mean retro cocktail.

Now, they’ve bottled two for you to enjoy easily at home.

All ready to take home. (Photo courtesy of the Presidio Social Club)

All ready to take home. (Photo courtesy of the Presidio Social Club)

Choose between the Barrel Aged Negroni made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari; or the Barrel Aged Reasons Rye, a blend of rye, punt e mes, Cointreau and orange bitters.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, Restaurants, Spirits/Cocktails/Beer, Wine | Comments (4) | Author:

Chefs’ Holidays 2014 in Yosemite

Friday, 31. January 2014 5:25

A beautiful day in Yosemite National Park.

A beautiful day in Yosemite National Park.

 

Last week in Yosemite National Park, kids in shorts kicked around a soccer ball, seniors played a game of croquet, and the mules were let out in winter for the first time in decades.

The park may have lacked its usual blanket of snow, but it had an abundance of celeb chefs.

That’s because it was time for Chefs’ Holidays at the majestic Ahwahnee Hotel. The annual event in January and February features acclaimed chefs from all over the country. In each session, three different chefs are featured. Guests get to enjoy a meet-and-greet reception with the chefs, watch each of the chefs do a demo, then enjoy a gala five-course dinner prepared either by one of the chefs or all three of them.

The Ahwahnee -- minus any snow.

The Ahwahnee — minus any snow.

Deer nibble in a meadow behind the hotel.

Deer nibble in a meadow behind the hotel.

Rock sculptures created by visitors to Mirror Lake.

Rock sculptures created by visitors to Mirror Lake.

This was my second time back as a moderator for two of the sessions.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Food TV, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Travel Adventures | Comments (6) | Author:

Make It A Hot and Sour Lunar New Year

Wednesday, 29. January 2014 5:29

Warm up with a different version of hot and sour soup.

Warm up with a different version of hot and sour soup.

Hot and sour soup is not a traditional dish on the standard Lunar New Year menu.

But when you have one this delicious, it’s hard not to want to share it with friends and family for a wonderful celebration such as the start of the “Year of the Horse.”

This version is by talented Pastry Chef Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Massachusetts. It’s from her second cookbook, “Flour, Too” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

You may already know Chang for her most excellent pastries and breads. But her Myers + Chang restaurant also serves up satisfying savory selections, many influenced by her family, as well as classic Taiwanese dishes.

This soup comes together quite quickly. In fact, in the book, Chang writes that her mom used to whip it up as a fast lunch on a regular basis for her kids. Now, it sells out routinely at Meyers + Chang.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Chefs, General | Comments (11) | Author: