Category Archives: Chefs

Splendid Squash

Imagine setting this dazzling dish down on your holiday table.

Imagine setting this dazzling dish down on your holiday table.

 

Come closer. Closer still. Come on, put those peepers right up to the screen.

Because This Is Squash. From “This Is Camino.”

Of course, that’s not the actual name of this gorgeous dish. But it might very well be because this is the only squash recipe you’ll need this season.

That’s how delicious it is.

The recipe for “Kabocha Squash and Grilled New Onion Salad with Yogurt, Pomegranate, and Almonds” is from the new cookbook, “This Is Camino” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

The 100 recipes draw from the cuisine of Camino, the soulful farm-to-table Oakland restaurant run by Chef Russell Moore, who cooked at Chez Panisse for 21 years, and his co-owner and wife Allison Hopelain.

Much of the cooking at Camino is done on a wood-fired hearth in view of the dining room. The crackling flames kiss dishes such as “Grilled Squid with Tomatoes and Korean Perilla,” “Grilled Chicken Ballotine with Green Lentils and Parsley Root,” and “Grilled Fig Leaf Ice Cream with Grilled Figs.”

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Jacques Pepin’s Poulet A La Creme

Chicken with mushrooms and cream in a fabulous dish by Jacques Pepin.

Chicken with mushrooms and cream in a fabulous dish by Jacques Pepin.

 

This dish is the equivalent of a big cashmere blanket wrapped around your shoulders.

It’s warm, comforting, and makes you feel well taken care of.

And of course, it’s by Jacques Pepin.

“Poulet A La Creme” is from his newest cookbook, “Jacques Pepin Heart & Soul In the Kitchen” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

JacquesPepinHeartandSoul

It’s also his last cookbook — well, at least the last one associated with his own television cooking show. That’s because his current KQED series of the same name is the last one he will film. He’ll turn 80 in December, and after 14 series, 24 cookbooks, and 32 years on television, he’s finally taking a break.

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Trokay — A Fine-Dining Surprise in Truckee

Kauai shrimp sizzling away on searingly hot granite at Trokay.

Kauai shrimp sizzling away on searingly hot granite at Trokay.

 

TRUCKEE, CA — In my youth, trips to Lake Tahoe didn’t involve sophisticated fare. Instead, it was all about burgers, pastas and Mexican food — hearty and inexpensive eats that filled you up after a hard day on the slopes.

But truth be told, it was also because those simple dishes were all that could be found then.

Not anymore.

Imagine my delight to find Trokay in Truckee, a fine-dining establishment versed in molecular gastronomy and true attention to detail that would be right at home in San Francisco or New York.

In fact, owners John and Nyna Weatherson are from New York. She was the head cheesemonger of the landmark Murray’s Cheese in the West Village. He is a Culinary Institute of America graduate, who was the top-ranked student in his class, and went on to be chef de partie at Restaurant Daniel.

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S’Mores and More at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe

Warm up with a gourmet s'more at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Warm up with a gourmet s’more at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

 

TRUCKEE, CA — After a four-hour drive, what better way to stretch the legs (and arms)  than by making and devouring a gourmet s’more?

That’s just what my husband and I did after dropping off our bags in our room at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, where I was invited to be a guest for its Epicurean Weekend two weeks ago.

We made it to the resort just in time, too, for its daily, early-evening “Marshmology” event on the terrace, which is not to be missed. After all, who can pass up house-made marshmallows in flavors such as caramel apple, orange, and pumpkin spice?

Marshmalogists are on hand to help you thread your chosen marshmallow on a long steel skewer, which you then hold over the nearby fire pit until it’s as gooey and charred as you like. Then, your Marshmalogist will help you squish the toasty marshmallow in between graham crackers and a piece of chocolate. Press down and take a sweet, messy bite. If that doesn’t make you feel like everything’s right in the world, nothing will.

Your friendly marshmalogist.

Your friendly marshmalogist.

Where all the action happens.

Where all the action happens.

The finished product. Oh, yes!

The finished product. Oh, yes!

Epicurean Weekend, the first weekend in October, is a slower time for the resort. It’s not yet winter, when the slopes are packed with skiers and snow-boarders (snow, notwithstanding). And it’s past summer, when hoards of mountain bikers aren’t careening down the barren slopes of next-door Northstar, though there were still a fair number that weekend.

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A Taste of the Coast at the New Cetrella Los Altos

Uni from Fort Bragg adds luxuriousness to this linguini with clams at Cetrella Los Altos.

Uni from Fort Bragg adds luxuriousness to this linguini with clams at Cetrella Los Altos.

 

If you’ve spent time in Half Moon Bay, you probably know Cetrella restaurant, a fixture on Main Street since 2001.

Now, its Mediterranean-Californian seafood dishes have been transported to the Peninsula with the debut of a new sister Cetrella — on Main Street again, but in downtown Los Altos.

The new restaurant, which opened in August, features an open kitchen, and a long dining room done up with a mural of tree-studded foothills. With a lot of hard surfaces, just note that the restaurant can get a little loud when it’s full, especially if there are larger parties around you.

The menus at both locations have been revamped with the arrival of new Executive Chef Mike Ellis, who spent many years in the kitchen of celeb Chef Charlie Palmer. Most notably, he was sous chef to then-Executive Chef Michael Voltaggio (winner of “Top Chef” Season Six) at Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. When Voltaggio departed, Ellis took over as executive chef.

The dining room.

The dining room.

He’s developed a sophisticated, yet comfortably accessible menu to Los Altos, as I experienced a couple of weeks ago at dinner with two friends. Although we paid our tab, Ellis sent out a couple extra dishes he wanted us to try.

Pretty in pink-purple.

Pretty in pink-purple.

Since we were celebrating a friend’s birthday, a cocktail was definitely in order. The “Foothill Collins” ($13) put a festive touch on the evening with its blend of gin, lemon, simple syrup, fresh basil and muddled blueberries. The blueberry taste was fairly subtle with the botanical taste of the gin more prominent, which allowed the drink to be enjoyed throughout the meal without overwhelming everything else.

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